Doctors at Harlem Hospital say they're upset over a recent decision by the Health and Hospitals Corporation to save money by limiting its relationship with Columbia University, and are now threatening to strike.
Under a new arrangement, doctors will still be allowed to teach Columbia medical students but will lose out on a deal that covered 100 percent of their kids' college tuition, 50 percent if they went elsewhere.
They will also no longer receive pension benefits provided by the university. Instead, they will now be employed by Physician Affiliate Group Of New York, a private corporation that also manages Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx.
The union says it wants the tuition and pension perks that helped Harlem Hospital remain competitive, despite lower salaries than many other hospitals. Still, HHC says the benefits under the new corporation are comparable, and both HHC and the hospital say they are ready should doctors decide to walk off the job.
"Our contingency plans are rapidly coming into place and when the date is announced of the strike, we have 10 days to make sure they're in place and we're ready to go," said Harlem Hospital Executive Director John Palmer.
"We are preparing for a possibility of a strike. It's disappointing it's come to this because we feel we have a very fair compensation package on the table," said NYC Health and Hospitals CEO Alan Aviles.
Meanwhile, people in the community say they have mixed feelings.
"They're doctors, they should be able to pay for their education just like everybody else. We need them here. There's people sick out here," said one Harlem resident.
"I don't think doctors are rich, they're here to serve. If they were rich they wouldn't be here working and for their kids to go to college that's also saving their lives," said another.
Doctors at Harlem Hospital did not want to talk on camera and their union says it doesn't want to negotiate in the media.
A meeting is scheduled for Thursday to discuss if and when a strike will take place.