Woodbury Nursing Home Staff Continue To Fight For Benefits

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Last month, Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation employees picketed outside the facility after hearing the news that they might lose their benefits because the owners of the facility, who are being sued by New York State District Attorney Letitia James for alleged fraud, did not make their contractually agreed-to payments into the workers’ health benefit fund.
At the time, Aug. 25 was set as the cut-off date. It since was extended to Sept. 15. Union 1199SEIU and the employees have been asking the state to appoint a receiver to the facility. On Aug. 30 at the Hilton Hotel in Huntington, the healthcare workers who are members of 1199SEIU took part in a round table that was described as emotional, as they shared their stories about what losing benefits could mean to them. They also discussed how other areas of the facility have been neglected, including proper staffing and supplies.
“The employer had agreed to pay a partial contribution of $750,000, which allowed the members benefits until Sept. 15,” said Timothy Rodgers, the vice president of the Nursing Home Division at 1199SEIU. “With that being said, they still owe around $4.5 million to secure the benefits.”
Even though there was an extension, fear still looms in the air of Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation. Employees are beginning to look elsewhere for jobs, and some are wondering how they’re going to pay for their surgeries or medications come Sept. 15.
Rodgers explained that 1199SEIU received close to 130 personalized letters from workers expressing their concerns and their reasons for potentially leaving if they lose their benefits.
“Not knowing if they’re going to have benefits is not something they can do for their personal health,” Rodgers said. “A group of workers ended up going to Albany and delivering those letters to the Department of Health on [Aug. 24]… They ended up meeting with some key people, public relations and people with the Department of Aging and the Department of Health, urging them to appoint a receiver quickly because workers are getting ready to leave… There is really no other choice for some of them. We have members who are three-time cancer survivors who are on daily medication. We have members who are getting ready to have serious surgeries that are life saving and they can’t have this looming idea of whether or not their benefits are going to be secured.”
Maria White has been an LPN at Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation for 42 years. She said she loves her job and what she does for the elderly.
“They have become an extension of my family, literally,” White said, later adding “Plenty of times I’ve taken the money out of my pocket to see my patients smile. That makes my day and their day, and that’s all that matters. It comes down to management doing what they’re held accountable to, and they just look the other way. It’s a sad situation for our elderly population right now.”
Peggy Milazzo has been an LPN at Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation for 29 years.
They are just two out of the 443 employees who could be losing their benefits on Sept. 15.
“We have so much anxiety with these benefits,” Milazzo said. “We take care of people. It is what we do. And if we can’t take care of ourselves, we can’t take care of them and I’ve carried my benefits in my family.”
Milazzo added that as health care workers, they “beat themselves up both emotionally and physically” at work.
“Medical benefits are a necessity,” Milazzo, who is currently wearing a boot, said. She explained that she may have to pay for treatment out of pocket if she loses her benefits.
Readers are encouraged to call the Department of Health or contact their local representative if they want to help.

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