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.