Harlem Hospital Doctors Tentatively Accept Contract

Doctors who threatened to strike at Harlem Hospital will continue taking pulses, giving x-rays and performing surgery -- without a work stoppage. They voted Thursday to tentatively accept the public hospital's proposed contract.

For 40 years, Columbia University has hired and managed the doctors at Harlem Hospital, but that ends in two weeks and doctors had several objections to the proposed contract with their new management group.

Those problems weren't solved.

The physicians give up two of their big perks under Columbia -- a generous pension and free or partial tuition for doctors children at Columbia and other colleges.

The union says it's getting other things in return for their sacrifices: an 18-month contract with no layoffs, no reduction of staffing and a promise to fill dozens of vacant doctor positions that have remained unfilled.

By tentatively accepting a contract, the union effectively put the strike on hold. The union hopes to have a final version to ratify next week.
"There were a lot of things that were said orally, though written down," says Dr. Barry Liebowitz, president of Doctors Council SEIU. "We're now going to sit down with the attorneys to take all the things that were agreed to and put them in contract form."