The president of the Johns Hopkins Health Systems has assured two city councilmen he will work to find jobs, including many at other Hopkins institutions, for the 600 employees at the soon-to-be-closed Homewood Health Center-South.
But that's not enough, hospital staff members shouted during a demonstration outside the North Charles Street building yesterday. They want the hospital -- "a family hospital," they called it -- kept open.
Last week, Hopkins announced it intends to shut down the 213-bed Charles Village hospital, which registered the largest loss in the state hospital industry last year. Formerly the North Charles General Hospital, the facility became a part of the Hopkins system about five years ago.
"We thought the purpose of the merger was to help the hospital, not to destroy it like this," said Dr. Joseph Wityk, the chief of the Homewood radiology department.
The doctor was one of about 50 hospital employees, including many in lab coats and operating-room attire, who joined the protest. Many held signs and angrily chanted, "Save our jobs."
June Carroll, a surgical technician, stood in her white coat holding a sign that read, "25 years" -- the length of her employment at the hospital. "We're family," said Daisy Branch, who has spent 26 years in inventory control.
"The last thing we need here in Baltimore City is more unemployment," said Sandy Okwaye, a secretary who helped organize the protest.
Two city councilmen who attended the protest -- Carl Stokes and Anthony J. Ambridge, both 2nd District Democrats -- said they did not think the hospital would survive. "After meeting with hospital officials, I don't see how it's a viable alternative," Mr. Ambridge said.
But they said that the Hopkins president, Dr. Robert Heyssel, has assured them that he will work to find new jobs for all employees.
"If they can't use them within the [Hopkins] hospital [system] themselves, they will help relocate them to another institution," said Mr. Ambridge.
The two councilmen met with Dr.Heyssel at City Hall Friday.
"Heyssel said the 200 medical professionals who are here can be absorbed into the Hopkins system if they want to be," Mr. Stokes said. Many of the remaining workers may find jobs with Hopkins, the councilman added, and Dr. Heyssel promised to intercede with other hospitals to find jobs for the rest.
"We all walked away feeling more secure that the process will work out well for the employees and the neighborhood," Mr. Ambridge said.
"We didn't try to save the hospital," Mr. Stokes said. "We tried to save the employees."
"I do not believe they are guaranteeing a job to everyone," said Elaine Freeman, a Hopkins spokeswoman, "but everything is being done."