Inside and Outside Both at Work, in the Community and Politically, the Harlem Hospital Labor Caucus Takes Aim at Improvements

“The excellent work of the Harlem Hospital Labor Caucus illustrates that different health care unions representing different members of the health care delivery team, such as doctors, nurses and support staff, can work together to get our collective agenda and message out and into action. This also shows the importance of doctors and others being involved both in our facilities and in our communities as well as politically. These days, to successfully address issues such as funding, staffing and care delivery, we need to be multi-faceted and have a tool set that includes strength both inside where we work and externally as well. And by us being successful, our patients and communities benefit.” –Dr. Aubrey Clarke, Doctors Council Delegate at Harlem Hospital

Things have been heating up at Harlem Hospital this summer, with the creation of the Healthcare Education Activist Team (HEAT), a coalition of doctors, nurses, and auxiliary staff labor unions to address a number of issues related both directly to patient care and quality improvement, as well as meeting HHC President Dr. Ram Raju’s 2020 Vision for HHC.  The coalition includes members from Doctors Council, CIR, 1199SEIU, NYSNA, DC 37, the CWA, Local 1180 and the building trades unions.

The HEAT caucus hopes to accomplish a number of things, including: nurses staffed at the standards set in the Safe Staffing Bill; more Doctors and other staffing to improve access to care; additional funding for dialysis to meet our patients’ needs; a re-examination of the other outsourced services — such as Environmental Services, Facilities, Linen and especially Dietary.  Insourcing and improving sometimes cost money; it is the cost of higher quality care.

HEAT is also working with elected leaders to ensure fair allocation of New York State’s indigent care funds. Despite being the only Level 1 Trauma Facility in Harlem, Harlem Hospital receives proportionately less of this money than private hospitals that care for wealthier and healthier patients. Federal Disproportionate Share funding is scheduled to be reduced in 2018, and legislative action will be required to stop this funding cut.

Recently, HEAT held its first Community Town Hall Meeting attended by over 300 community advocates, elected leaders, community residents, and caregivers to educate, engage, organize and mobilize the Harlem community around the challenges we face at Harlem Hospital. We have and will continue to raise these issues in multiple forums, with all levels of Hospital management and with all stakeholders to address to ensure that the Harlem Hospital community gets the support it needs to improve the care we provide.

Health care union members , such as doctors and nurses, have been meeting with community groups and elected leaders on our issues.  At a recent street fair, close to 2,000 signatures were obtained on a petition calling for our issues to be addressed and resolved.

Advocacy matters and makes a difference.  If you would like to be involved in political, policy or community advocacy and outreach, please e-mail us at or call us at 212-532-7690.

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