Head of city clinics is forced to resign

January 05, 1994|By Jonathan Bor | Jonathan Bor,Staff Writer

The man who directs Baltimore's tuberculosis, AIDS and sexually transmitted disease clinics has been forced to resign in the wake of a job shake-up involving 90 clinic workers.

Dr. John Lewis, assistant commissioner for preventive medicine and epidemiology, charged yesterday that top officials in the city health department had made him the scapegoat for a controversy that was not his fault.

He said that Health Commissioner Peter Beilenson and Deputy Commissioner Elias Dorsey asked him Monday morning to vacate his office by Friday. He has held the job, which now pays $80,000, for four years.

The action came less than a week after many of the people who staff the city health clinics expressed outrage over job re-classifications that would leave about two-thirds of them with less pay and all of them with certain benefits interrupted. Several threatened to quit.

"Peter Beilenson, with his lack of experience, wasn't prepared to deal with the problems," Dr. Lewis said. "And the person who pointed out the problems got blamed for it."

Dr. Lewis said he will soon seek another job. Previously, he was chief epidemiologist in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Connecticut.

Declining to elaborate, Mr. Dorsey confirmed yesterday that Dr. Lewis had been asked to leave. He denied that last week's flap over the clinic jobs had anything to do with it. "We wanted to make a change in the leadership of the department," Mr. Dorsey said. It's a personnel issue."

Yesterday, Dr. Beilenson said Dr. Arista Garnes, director of the city's family planning program, would fill the post starting Monday.

Last week, the city health department ended a 13-year arrangement with Union Memorial Hospital in which the hospital was paid about $3 million annually to manage various aspects of the health clinics.

About 90 nurses, epidemiologists, laboratory technicians and other personnel in the clinics technically worked for Union Memorial, even though they dispensed services for the city health department. But, after the contract expired, the employees were shifted to civil service jobs.

Yesterday, Dr. Lewis said the change had been anticipated since last spring and that he had worked hard to assign employees to new classifications that would enable them to do the same work at comparable pay.

Each classification carried a salary range of several thousand dollars. Dr. Lewis said he expected employees to be given salaries that were equal to or slightly better than those they had received previously.

"In the vast majority of cases, we were entirely happy with their performance and what they were getting paid," he said.

But the department sent letters two weeks ago to the employees, informing them of salaries that in most cases were lower. Fifteen people were cut by more than $1,000, he said. The biggest cut was $3,600.

Dr. Lewis said the pay decisions were made "without consulting me."

The controversy boiled over during a Board of Estimates meeting last week.

In visits to clinics yesterday, Dr. Beilenson said he was trying to satisfy many of the employee grievances.

Walt Jones, a TB nurse who works at the Caroline Street office, said he read aloud a letter of support for Dr. Lewis signed by numerous other employees.

In the letter, he said the forced resignation would hurt employees' morale and the services they render.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.