The Bronx’s medical juggernaut is about to get even bigger – but some employees may lose their jobs in its wake.
Montefiore Health System announced on Tuesday, May 27 that it will merge with Yeshiva University to take a larger role in the financial management and day-to-day operations of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Morris Park.
The announcement came days after the Bronx Times-Reporter broke the news that financially troubled Einstein was cutting its workforce amid rumors of the merger with Montefiore, which is already affiliated with the school through its various teaching hospitals.
Hundreds of workers at the Morris Park campus had until Monday, May 19 to respond to buyout packages, with layoffs expected to follow.
As part of the agreement to create a “new entity,” Yeshiva will still grant degrees to graduating Einstein students. There will be one united faculty, with academic appointments from Yeshiva now employed by Montefiore.
The merger is still subject to various channels of regulatory approval, Montefiore said.
Einstein $$$ woes
Einstein has been plagued with debt in recent years. The college’s parent, Yeshiva University, lost about $100 million in the Ponzi scheme scandal by now jailed swindler Bernard Madoff. A Yeshiva trustee, Madoff siphoned and lost millions of his clients’ investments.
Einstein was hit particularly hard, and has since tried to stem the flow of red ink by cutting spending, including freezing faculty salaries.
The campus operated at a deficit of nearly $106 million in 2012, according to Bloomberg News.
Workers outside the Einstein campus on Morris Park Avenue and Eastchester Road said on Friday, May 23, that all employees – both union and non-union – who have worked at Einstein for over 10 years received a one-time-only severance offer about a month ago, with the May 19 deadline to respond – after which they expected layoffs would begin.
Einstein responded to an inquiry that it has no “target number” of layoffs.
A spokesperson for healthcare union SEIU 1199, which covers many workers at Einstein, said that the union was still mulling a response.
Turmoil in workforce
One long-term employee, who asked not to be named, said he turned down a buyout offer of six months’ salary and a year of medical insurance, calling it “very insulting.”
Employees received a packet identifying the other workers who had received the offer, listing them only by age and job description – which gave fellow workers clues to their identity.
“It’s poisoned the waters,” said another worker with close to 20 years working there. They also asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal. “There’s tension. People are looking at each other, trying to figure out who’s at a higher grade.”
The loss of workers at the campus is expected to also have an impact on the local neighborhood economy, including several restaurants, luncheonettes. delis and candy stores in the immediate area.
Jerry Christopher, owner of GOOD TO GO restaurant across the street on Eastchester Road said he gets a good portion of his business from Einstein workers.
“It would hurt the business. I’d hate to see it happen,” said Christopher. “Einstein workers are a big part of my business.”
Already the borough’s largest healthcare network and largest employer, Montefiore has been actively expanding in recent years.
The healthcare titan took over the bankrupt Westchester Square Medical Center in 2013, converting it from a full emergency room into a “freestanding emergency department,” offering urgent care with no overnight beds. It had previously taken over the former Our Lady of Mercy Medical Center in Wakefield. Montefiore is also trying to build a hi-rise urgent care center in Riverdale, but was recently stymied through legistation by state Senator Jeff Klein.