A community group will meet with Yale-New Haven Hospital officials today in an attempt to persuade the hospital to adopt an agreement that would change many of its policies towards its employees and the larger New Haven community.
In its Community Benefit Agreement, Community Organized for Responsible Development, an organization formed this summer that has been sharply critical of the hospital, proposes changes to a variety of hospital practices, including their employment policy and healthcare benefits. At the heart of the debate is the development of the new Yale Cancer Center, which has become a source of concern for a number of Hill area residents and hospital employees.
Vin Petrini, the hospital’s spokesman, affirmed Yale-New Haven’s commitment to meet with CORD, but declined to comment further prior to the meeting. Rev. Scott Marks, a CORD organizer, was unavailable for comment.
Although Mayor John DeStefano Jr. has suggested in the past that the two parties confer, mayoral spokesman Derek Slap said DeStefano was not directly involved in setting up tomorrow’s meeting.
“This is between CORD and the hospital,” Slap said. “Obviously, the mayor feels it’s a good thing that they’re talking. We’ll wait and see what comes out of the meeting, but he’s not directly involved in it.”
Phoebe Rounds ’07, a member of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee and CORD, said a group of Yale students walked into the hospital this Friday, and demanded to meet with Yale-New Haven’s president and CEO, Joe Zaccagnino, in order to urge him to start negotiations.
Josh Eidelson ’06, also a member of the UOC and CORD, said the terms of the Community Benefit Agreement are representative of the true needs of the community, since they were formed through a survey of the Hill area conducted by CORD’s members, including a large number of Yale students.
“CORD went door-to-door in the neighborhood and talked to about 700 people”, Eidelson said. “Ninety percent of residents agree with the Community Benefit proposal.”
In the past, Petrini has defended the hospital’s relationship with the community, citing hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on community initiatives, including support for 125 community organizations and an affordable housing program.
But Rebecca Livengood ’07, who is running for the Board of Aldermen and is a member of both the UOC and CORD, said CORD’s members are particularly concerned that the creation of the new cancer center will require the demolition of affordable housing in the area. The Community Benefits Agreement asks the hospital to guarantee a one-to-one replacement of the housing units.
“I am not so comfortable with the idea of a new cancer center if they are going to tear down affordable housing and not replace it,” Livengood said.
Eidelson said CORD sees the cancer center as an opportunity to improve the hospital’s practices and to foster a stronger partnership between the hospital and the community.
“As a nonprofit organization with a mission to serve the community, the hospital cannot abrogate its responsibility,” he said.
The proposed agreement also addresses the issue of affordable healthcare. According to Eidelson, a number of the hospital’s low-income patients are themselves hospital employees. Instead of providing free beds, Eidelson said, the hospital forces them to take liens on their homes. CORD is asking Yale-New Haven to publicly endorse its Hospital Debt Justice Project as part of the agreement. Coupled with these changes, CORD aims to improve the hospital’s employment policies, demanding that the hospital bring wages and healthcare benefits for their employees to the same level as those received by University employees. The proposal would also afford the hospital’s workers the right to unionize and give priority to the area’s residents in the hiring process.
“We are fighting for a fair process by which workers at the hospital can freely decide whether they want to have a union. Currently 1,800 workers are trying to unionize,” said Rounds.
In addition to these requests, CORD is also demanding free parking for employees and the provision of a shuttle service to the hospital, the practice of safe and environmentally responsible building and demolition procedures and the creation of internships for local high school students.