A year and a half ago, Linda Woods left her hometown in Pennsylvania for a nursing job at Prince George's General Hospital in Cheverly. Yesterday, she and hundreds of other employes in the county's troubled public hospital system suddenly found themselves in limbo.
"I've kind of resolved myself to the fact that I'll be laid off," said the 25-year-old registered nurse. "Whether I actually am or not, I just don't know, but the waiting is awful."
Woods' sentiments were widely shared at Prince George's General, where apprehension over the planned firing of 650 workers tomorrow at that hospital and two others dominated conversations.
The firing of nearly one-quarter of the 2,824 persons who work at Prince George's General, Greater Laurel-Beltsville Hospital and the Bowie Health Care Center was announced Tuesday by Hospital Corporation of America, a Tennessee management firm hired by the county-chartered Community Hospital and Health Care Systems Inc. to stem millions of dollars in losses.
Workers will not learn who is fired until pink slips go out tomorrow, a hospital official said.
"Everywhere you go, it's being discussed," said Bart Barrows, 31, a registered nurse who works in the hospital's recovery room. "Every floor I take a patient to is buzzing."
Corbett A. Price, an HCA vice president in charge of the staff reductions, said the hospitals will set up a job center next week to help fired employes find other jobs and fill out unemployment forms.
Price said the firings would apply to all departments of the three county-owned health facilities and to administrators. Seniority and other factors will be considered in deciding who is terminated, based on the contracts of individual unions. Employes will also receive severance pay, he said.
Company plans to aid fired workers offered little solace to employes interviewed yesterday, who expressed concern about meeting mortgage and auto payments and other household bills.
"I moved into a new house a year and a half ago, and I had planned on getting a new car, but that's going to be on hold, now," said Margarita Kreiner, 25, a lab medical technician.
Employes who did not expect to get laid off also expressed concern over the firings, saying it would leave the hospital short staffed and force those who remain to shoulder more work.
"We expect them to work harder, but their productivity will increase because we'll introduce services that will allow them to work more efficiently," said Price.
"It all depends on how many they cut and where they cut them," said Kathy Paolucci, 27, a registered nurse. "For right now, everyone is just doing their best and waiting to see what happens."