Union fights Rosewood layoffs State hospital gives notice to 5 doctors, 35 other workers

November 30, 1990|By Alisa Samuels and Timothy B. Wheeler | Alisa Samuels and Timothy B. Wheeler,Evening Sun Staff

The executive director of a state employees' union says this week's layoff notices to 40 employees at Rosewood Hospital Center, including five physicians, is "the tip of the iceberg" for state workers, predicting layoffs at other agencies.

William Bolander, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 92, made the statement last night at a meeting called to map strategy to save the workers' jobs. AFSCME represents the workers at the center in Owings Mills.

"I think the layoffs will go beyond the initial ones at the center and affect other agencies, Bolander said.

"We've got to get on top of this and fight it out with every ounce of energy we have right now," Bolander told 30 people at AFSCME headquarters on Ostend Street. None of the Rosewood workers attended.

The layoffs notices were made public yesterday.

AFSCME members plan to rally, lobby, and send petitions to the hospital's administrators and Gov. William D. Schaefer's office to protest the layoffs.

"It all boils down" to what the governor's priorities are, Bolander said.

Among those to be laid off at Rosewood within 90 days include five physicians, 13 direct-care trainees, four activity therapist aides, two food service assistants, two dietary workers, two linen service workers, two registered dietitians and two human development associates.

Also notified were a pharmacy technician, a housekeeping supervisor, a supply officer, a library and files supervisor, a linen service supervisor, a laboratory technician and a health records manager, who has been there for 27 years, Bolander said.

Bolander and others were disappointed that none of the 33 employees attended the meeting. He said they might have been working or may have been unsure of the location of the union's new headquarters.

Earlier, Daisy Fields, 42, a health development associate at the center, said she hasn't received a pink slip but is uneasy about the prospect.

"Only thing I can do is wait and see what number will be called after the first 33," she said.

The layoffs are part of a year-old plan to downsize Rosewood, the largest residential facility for the developmentally disabled in Maryland.

A staff of 1,095 workers now cares for 470 developmentally disabled adults, said Michael Golden, spokesman for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

State officials say the layoffs at Rosewood are unrelated to the state budget crunch, but Bolander said the layoffs must be budget-related because the state previously had promised not to cut staff.

"It's very clear that this is a direct [result] of the budget cuts," he said. "It can be nothing else when the state health department acknowledged up to now that they need those people."

Bolander said his members had been assured last year there would be no staff cuts at Rosewood as the state reduced the client population there.

Golden denied Bolander's statement.

"It was not our intention to have layoffs, but I would seriously doubt we would ever pledge something like that," Golden said.

State health officials have discharged or transferred more than 100 developmentally disabled adults in the past year to community-based programs, Golden said, because officials believed they could be better served there.

In 1989, state health officials previously had tried to close Rosewood, but relented after a public protest and decided instead to reduce the number of retarded and developmentally disabled adults housed there.

In October, workers at Spring Grove Hospital Center in Catonsville protested until 21 freeze exemptions were granted to fill staff shortages.

Bolander said maybe this can be another victory.

Meanwhile, Golden said, the state plans to keep shrinking Rosewood's population.

In 1989, there were 575 clients, this year 470. By July 1992, they hope to have 294. State officials also intend to reduce the staff of 1,095 to 860 by that time, Golden said.

The center's current annual operating budget of $42.2 million will be slashed to $28.4 million by July 1992, Golden said.

"We thought we could make up these reductions through attrition," he said, "but unfortunately, the economy being what it is, no one's leaving their jobs."

He didn't rule out future layoffs.

Charles Breitenbach, 67, father of a 37-year old son who has lived at Rosewood for 16 years, told the AFSCME members he was concerned about the quality of care for patients during the downsizing.

"We don't want direct-care workers to be taken away," said Breitenbach, who is chairman of the Rosewood Citizens Advisory Council. Outside the meeting room, he said his son is well cared for now but feared the quality of care might change with reduction of staff.

When he learned that 13 direct-care trainees would be laid off he said: "If they lay off the direct-care trainees, what will happen in the future? Will we have enough resources to care for the patients? I don't think we do."

The governor defended the staff cuts.

"We hope to consolidate Rosewood and make it a much smaller organization out there, put in some transition housing, make it much better, functional," Schaefer said. "It should have been done years ago. It wasn't done."

The governor said there were "people all over the place" and "improper utilization of the buildings" and that the staff reductions there were "not moving as fast as I'd like."

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