By JAIME WILLIAMS, BEN KOCHMAN and BOB KAPPSTATTER
UPDATE: Montefiore Health System and Yeshiva University announced on Tuesday, May 27 that they will be forming “a new entity,” with Montefiore “assuming greater responsibility for the day-to-day operations and financial management of Albert Einstein College of Medicine and with Yeshiva remaining the degree-granting institution with a key role in the educational aspects of the entity.”
Financially troubled Einstein College of Medicine is cutting its workforce, amid rumors of a planned merger with Montefiore Medical Center.
Hundreds of workers at the Morris Park campus had until Monday, May 19 to respond to buyout packages, with layoffs expected to follow.
At the same time, Montefiore, which is affiliated with Einstein through its various teaching hospitals, has been rumored to be eyeing a takeover of the medical college.
Einstein’s dean, Dr. Allen Spiegel, recently responded to workers’ questions about the possible merger with a curt “I can’t discuss that,” said one source.
Any Monte-Einstein merger would still have to retain ties with Yeshiva University to bestow degrees on its graduating medical students. It is unclear what regulatory hurdles Monte, which has become a medical giant in the Bronx with its various divisions and clinics, might face in its expansion attempt.
Montefiore did not respond for comment.
Einstein $$$ woes
Einstein has been plagued with debt in recent years. That’s thanks to its parent Yeshiva University, which 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 particularly hit hard financially, and has since tried to stem the flow of red ink by cutting spending, including faculty salary freezes.
The campus operated at a deficit of nearly $106 million in 2012, according to Bloomberg News.
Workers outside the Einstein campus Friday on Morris Park Avenue and Eastchester Road said 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 buyouts.
Representatives for healthcare workers union SEIU 1199, which covers many workers at Einstein, did not respond for comment.
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.