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Layoffs Sink In For UM Health Employees

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Custodial Workers at the University of Miami voted to go on strike if wage increase demands aren't met.  (Source: CBS4)

Custodial Workers at the University of Miami voted to go on strike if wage increase demands aren’t met. (Source: CBS4)

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Healthy Living

MIAMI (CBS4) – Carlos Saenz maneuvered his motorized wheel chair along the sidewalk outside the UM Medical School Wednesday, having come back to get an item from the desk he will no longer occupy.

Saenz, who has a bachelor’s degree, is working on his master’s, and has Cerebral Palsy, is among up to 800 UHealth employees being laid off over the next couple of weeks.

“My administrator basically said he has no choice. It wasn’t in his hands to do the layoff. I was just on the list,” Saenz told CBS4′s Gary Nelson.

Saenz, who graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in political science and mass communications, is working on getting his master’s degree in human resource management.

He learned something about human resources Tuesday when he became among the first batch of UHealth workers to be shown the door.

“I didn’t expect it. Unfortunately, they don’t cut from the top down, they cut from the middle down,” Saenz said. “I cried yesterday after a while, because it took a while to sink in.”

Saenz answered phones, verified patient insurance coverage, and fixed computers at UHealth for five years.

He had plans to work at UM long enough to save enough money to open his own computer software consulting firm.

He said his “dream” has not been shut down but “put on pause for the moment.”

Saenz said he has to maintain a positive outlook and hope that, with the help of a state-sponsored ageny that assists the handicapped he will be able to land another job. He recognizes that times are hard for job-seekers, but had an appointment scheduled with an employment counselor Wednesday afternoon.

He said his life has been a constant struggle, due to his debilitating disease, and his layoff from UM is “another blow.”

Saenz blames UHealth’s financial problems on what he sees as the University’s ill-advised decision to spend $260 million four years ago to purchase the aging Cedars hospital across the street.

“Before you do an investment, you should take into account your employees,” he said.

UM President Donna Shalala told the Miami Herald that the cutbacks are necessary due to declining revenues, including lower payments from insurance companies, a decrease in funding for research and less money coming from Jackson Memorial Hospital, the primary teaching hospital for UM students prior to the University’s acquisition of Cedars.

“What we are now is clearly overstaffed and underfunded in key areas,” Shalala said.

Of the up to 800 employees being let go, most are administrative, clerical and involved in research. Research is taking a huge hit with more than 200 clinical and support personnel being lopped.

Some patients believe the layoffs will negatively effect care.

“I think it will be impacted greatly,” said Julie Owen who had brought her son to have a follow up exam done on his broken ankle. “When you get rid of 800 people it has to have an impact.”

Shalala insisted otherwise.

“What we’ve chosen to protect is patient services,” the U’s president said. Shalala noted no nurses, doctors or medical technicians are among those being laid off.

Customer service, it would seem, will take a hit. Among those scheduled to be let go are some 150 schedulers. Making an appointment with a UHealth provider promises to be a more difficult process.

Carlos Saenz is among those who will not be around to take your call.

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