Physicians at Harlem Hospital Threaten to Strike Over Weaker Affiliation With Columbia University

More than 150 of the 200 physicians at Harlem Hospital Center in New York City have threatened to strike over the city's decision to loosen an affiliation with Columbia University, according to a New York Times report.

Columbia's medical school has hired physicians from the Harlem Hospital under a contract with the city since 1962. After the city began to re-evaluate affiliations, Harlem physicians will no longer be Columbia employees. The 272-bed hospital will retain its academic affiliation with the university, but physicians will be managed by a private corporation chosen by the city — Physician Affiliate Group of New York.

Physicians are displeased with the prospect of losing pension benefits they received under Columbia, along with college tuition discounts for their children. Thirty physicians have already opted to retire or resign rather than work for a private corporation that doesn't have the prestige of an Ivy League institution, according to a physician cited in the report.

Yesterday, Alan Aviles, president of the city's Health and Hospitals Corporation, said the city could not afford raises for Harlem physicians unless the money came out of their fringe benefits. A physician salary averaged at approximately $175,000, according to Mr. Aviles. He also said benefit packages including college tuition could not be sustained.

If the strike does occur, the Harlem administration has made plans to reduce services to the essentials, such as pediatrics, labor and delivery, intensive care and emergency care. Physicians in management positions, along with nurse practitioners and part-time physicians, will be brought in to replace those on strike. Patients are encouraged to refill prescriptions before the strike.  

Read more about hospitals in New York City:

- By 2012, Private NYC Hospitals Will Pay Fee for City Ambulances

- Judge Prevents NYC Public Hospitals From Cutting 150 Jobs

- New York City Public Hospitals Eliminating 2,600 Jobs Following State Budget Cuts

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