Two hundred and seventy-five visiting nurses, members of the United Federation of Teachers, have been laid off from the Visiting Nurse Service of New York after the organization was suspended from the Medicaid Long Term Care Program because it had been enrolling patients improperly.
The penalty has resulted in low patient census and the elimination of positions. Another several hundred support staff have also lost jobs.
"It's a serious blow," said Anne Goldman, special nursing representative to the UFT and a member of NYSUT's Health Care Professionals Council. "It's a painful, horrible thing to lose a job through no fault of your own, and the company whom you worked for has failed to protect you."
Goldman said valued, senior visiting nurses, members of the UFT's Federation of Nurses, who have devoted their lives to protecting and serving patients are being lost. Violet Matanzo is one of those nurses. She was the most senior visiting nurse with VNS, having devoted more than 30 years to a profession she loved.
"It's very painful," said Matanzo, a resident of Queens. "I feel horrible. There's been a lot of chaos and confusion."
Matanzo worked briefly as a hospital nurse, but switched to the visiting nurse profession three decades ago because she loved the one-on-one contact with patients. "You make connections," she said.
She and other colleagues who lost their jobs are concerned about their future, and about the health of their patients. For most of her career, Matanzo visited patients in their homes and apartments. In 2002, she became a team facilitator, working with staff and patients on the phone.
This past February her job was eliminated, and Matanzo went back into the field. The UFT Federation of Nurses negotiated on her behalf so she did not receive a proposed pay cut. In July, she returned to visiting nurse office work, and then, along with colleagues, was told her job was being eliminated.
The nurses were given just 24 hours to decide if they wanted to apply for other available positions, without having sufficient information on the job criteria. Matanzo said nurses targeted for layoffs received a lot of misinformation and a lack of respect.
"I decided to leave. I can't let this happen to me again," said Matanzo, who has been a regular advocate and team leader for visiting nurses at annual NYSUT Health Care Professionals lobby days. She is also vice-chapter leader for the Federation of Nurses UFT.
"It's wrong when dedicated, hard working health care professions lose their jobs as a direct result of the employer's mismanagement," said Kathleen Donahue, NYSUT vice president overseeing health care. "In addition to the employees who have been terminated due to such acts, the neediest members of society will now lose the critical health services that were being provided by the dedicated nurses visiting their clients."
The UFT is offering mentoring, resume writing, and has posted resources on its Federation of Nurses site at www.uft.org/chapters/federation-nurses. The link provides information on unemployment insurance, health care benefits and the union's Member Assistance Program.
Nurses affected by the staff reduction are encouraged to contact UFT's Federation of Nurses at 212-420-7981.