The Department of Public Health has notified more than 475 people that they will be laid off, health commissioners said Tuesday.

The layoffs, effective Nov. 14, include all of the department’s administrative clerical staff. Employees were notified of their impending terminations last week.

Commission President Jame Illig said the layoffs will have a direct impact in the Mission. “They will affect General Hospital as well as our primary care clinics,” he said. “If there are no ward clerks to manage the files and receive the patients and deal with all of the paperwork, then licensed nurses have to do it. It’s crazy.”

The layoffs will cut costs by more than $8 million and were made in response to the nearly $43 million budget reduction that public health faces from the city this year, said Gregg Saas, Chief Financial Officer for the department.

He said the city was reluctant to scale back on the services public health offers, so it slashed spending on infrastructure and administrative spending. “The message is to do everything, but don’t do quite as good a job,” Saas said.

Several commissioners expressed their frustration over the layoffs and said losing the department’s clerical staff will reduce the quality of care that can be provided to the public.

“It seems to me that there’s a secondary effect in cutting the clerical positions,” said Commissioner Margine Sako. “You, in fact, are reducing services because the people who are the service providers are pushing paperwork and filling out forms and so forth.”

About 160 clerical workers will lose their jobs, said Dr. Mitchell Katz, Director of Public Health. He said most of the other layoffs consist of about 300 certified nurse assistants. The latter will be replaced by non-certified assistants who earn less money.

“We only did this so as not to have to cut a doctor, nurse or social worker,” Katz said. “It will be very tough for us.”

Other departmental reductions include cuts to HIV prevention, vocational services, jail psychiatric services and a reduction in the department’s spending on budget analysts.

Illig said the layoffs could have been avoided if the department had achieved greater reductions in personnel costs during union negotiations. He said one way to do that would be to outsource jobs to non-union workers in janitorial and security guard positions, but that was not agreed upon.

Saas said more mid-year job reductions could await as the department faces the possibility of state budget cuts, city-wide overspending and a bleak economic outlook for 2010.

Bryan Gibel

Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Bryan has a background in investigative reporting for newspapers and the radio. He is working the health beat for Mission Loc@l.

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12 Comments

  1. WHY IS IT THAT THE LOW RANK AND FILE EMPLOYEES ARE TARGETED FOR THIS? IS IT BECAUSE WE DON’T HAVE ANY STRONG PERSON IN POLITICS THAT CAN DEPEND US? OUR UNION LOCAL 1021 DOESN’T EVEN CARE ABOUT IT.

    IT’S SO HURTFUL TO THINK ABOUT THAT YOUR LOYALTY AND DEDICATION TO YOUR WORK HAS BEEN TAKEN FOR GRANTED. I THOUGHT THAT I AM ONE OF THE LUCKIEST CIVIL SERVANT EMPLOYEE THAT HAVE A SECURED JOB STATUS.

    JUST WANT TO LET YOU KNOW ABOUT MY FEELING. MY MORAL IS VERY LOW AND NOW I AM ANGRY AND FRUSTRATED.

  2. 1. As a city employee it is very frustrating to have given up most of our paid holidays to protect our clerks and then have this happen. I know we were told they would only be protected until November but we were also told that the elimiating of classifications would not necessarrily mean every one would lose their job. We were told reclassification was happening to allow the rehiring of these people (mostly classified in the old clerk typists classifications) into a clerical classification that was more appropriate……..whatever that means. NOT ONE OF THE CLERKS I HAVE TALKED TO HAS RECEIVED ANY NOTIFICATION REGARDING REAPPLYING TO A NEW CLASSIFICATION.
    2. During this wholefinancial down swing the mayor has not one time come out and talked to us. We are not worth his time I guess. We are suppose to continue to take his detached abuse and not do anything. He would be doing better to get his employees behind him. It is clear he does not care. Pretty sad! How is he going to feel when he realizes that his callous attitude costs him his employees loyalty when he runs for governor? You get what you give.

  3. It is illegal to re-hire the layoffs on the spot. What DPH may do next is to post job opening of 123 replacement of 1406 when time comes. In other words, anybody in the public can apply for the post. All applicants will go through interviews and remember the salary will commence at step 1 of 1406. The accepted applicant(s) will have the least senority in the class and will be facing future layoffs. This is cruel and humiliated!

    I feel sorry for those CNAs (Certified Nurse Assistant). They have no bumping right within Citywide. They were forced to accept the new reduced salary. Many are facing their families’ commitments, such as: raising their kids and mortgages to pay. They cannot afford to lose their jobs in this kind of economic situation. This is another cruel treatment of DPH officials in giving no option to the CNAs. Do they have any compassion or hearts at all?

  4. It’s funny that Dr. Katz says “We only did this so as not to have to cut a doctor, nurse or social worker.” Dr. Katz gets to keep his secretary. He will be the only one in the entire department to have a secretary. He is such a hypocrite. Five years ago, he cut a large portion of the clerical staff – now five years later he is doing the same thing. Why target the lowest paid employees who consist mostly of woman and minorities? Why won’t he accept the Union’s offer of having the employees take more furlough days? We’re already taking ten, what’s a few more if it will save jobs and keep the department running. He is an idiot and Newsom will never become Governor because his true colors have finally been displayed !! They are two peas in a pod.

  5. I just wonder why didn’t the Health Commissioners reject the budget proposals presented by Dr. Katz at the first place before going to Mr. Mayor and Board of Supervisors rather than showing their hypocrite compassion right now? Why? Would that be too late to show their concerns? Why didn’t they tell their concerns NOW directly to the Mayor to stop the layoffs? Would that be because they were appointed by Mr. Mayor to keep their silence? A show?

    Why didn’t Dr. Katz cut the services in the two hospitals when they are running in “black” sinking holes. He would not allow any cuts to the hospitals when budgeting.

    Where is Union SEIU 1021? Fight for us? Another loser! Rallies rallies… just a show to ease the members’ anger. We should fire them NOW!

  6. We shouldn’t let Mayor Newsom continue humiliating and denigrating us, the clerical staff of S.F. Dept. of Public Health. He thinks that by cutting our salary and laying off women and minorities, the budget deficit can be resolved. Why can’t he cut his own salary and show some compassion and solidarity to the City residents and employees by looking for other revenue resources? Why doesn’t Mayor Newsom cut from top City staff salaries? Top wage earners make over $100,000-$200,000. Cutting $10,000-$20,000 from their salaries would not make much difference to their income. If Mayor Newsom can’t run the City, how can he run the State as its governor? Shame on him! Let’s fight to the end!!

  7. In 2007, Dr. Katz was interviewed by SF Examiner that he would leave his job in Summer of 2009 and would return to New York because he indicated he did not want to stay in one job for more than 10 years. Why he is still here for in ruining our lives? It is time for him to leave!

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