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U.S. News

District of Columbia, Virginia: Whitman-Walker Clinic Ousts Senior Staff, Triggering Lawsuit Threats

January 5, 2009

Several staff members who worked for decades at the Whitman-Walker Clinic (WWC) were laid off shortly before Christmas, joining dozens who were terminated during recent cutbacks linked to the recession and inadequate service reimbursement.

"I knew it was difficult, but we had been told on several occasions after previous layoffs that things were OK and that we were on solid financial ground," said Barbara Chinn, former director of WWC's Max Robinson Center and a 21-year clinic veteran. "We had been told that management would be treated as fairly as union employees and they are entitled to a severance package, but we aren't."

Though financially troubled before, WWC has "always tried to raise revenue," said Pat Hawkins, 68, WWC's former associate executive director for policy and external affairs, who began volunteering with the clinic in 1984. Revenue-generating plans this time around "were not put into play and I'm not sure why not," she said.

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"I had enough sense, having been an executive director in the past and looking at financials and seeing kind of an inevitability, and anything that wasn't actually directly critical in terms of providing health care was possibly going to be reduced or cut," said Bruce Weiss, WWC's former director of administration. "[The number of staff] is probably half of what it was, yet the clinic is serving double the amount of people," he said. "At some point you cut so deeply that it becomes difficult to function. I hope that's not what becomes of the clinic, since they do such vital work."

"For myself, it did not come out of the blue, since I serve on the executive team, and I was aware of how tight everything was," said Mary Bahr, former director of community health.

One source close to the clinic said some of the dismissed employees are considering filing an age discrimination lawsuit, saying a disproportionate number of those fired are older.

Back to other news for January 2009

Adapted from:
Washington Blade
12.26.08; Amy Cavanaugh


  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 
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