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SEIU members concerned Allentown State Hospital may be closed

11.18.09

December 2009, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

SEIU members concerned Allentown State Hospital may be closed

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 9th- On November 2nd the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Pennsylvania Social Services Union (PSSU) Local 668 held a rally at the Allentown State Hospital on Hanover Avenue in Allentown to protest the possible closing of the psychiatric hospital.

Mike Baker, Local 668, Chapter 13 Chairman stated the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW) in Harrisburg has indicated the 97 year old hospital might to closed and the residents would be moved to other state facilities including in Lackawanna County and Berks County.

“We were pleased that many of the public officials that were invited attended the rally. The purpose of the rally was to bring attention to the possibility of DPW closing the much needed hospital,” said Mr. Baker.

Pennsylvania has closed twelve of its psychiatric hospitals since 1979, bringing the number of state owned facilities including Allentown to seven.

Democratic Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell recently supported the selling of the state owned and operated Scranton School for Deaf in Scranton. Mr. Rendell since being Governor has made it known he favors privitizing many of the state owned assets including the Pennsylvania turnpike, the state liquor stores, and psychiatric hospitals.

Mr. Baker stated currently there are approximately 180 patients at the facility and SEIU Local 668 represents around 26 of the 400 hospital workers. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union and the SEIU, Pennsylvania Healthcare Union also represent workers at the facility.

There was more than nine elected public officials that attended the rally to show support for the employees and the patients that would need to be moved out-side the Lehigh Valley should the hospital be closed.

“I was there not only to show support for the employees, but also to support the Lehigh Valley economy,” said Democratic Pennsylvania House of Representative Joseph Brennan (133rd Legislative District).

Mr. Brennan, who was elected to the state assembly in 2006, told the newspaper the loss of the good-paying jobs at the hospital would hurt the Lehigh Valley economy. “There isn’t any other state owned facilities the employees could get a job at. Those workers would be out of a job if the hospital closes,” said Mr. Brennan.

In the past when state jobs were eliminated because of a similar situation, the workers were offered other jobs. Mr. Brennan stated, in 2006 a State Hospital was closed in Harrisburg and the workers were offered other employment but there is no other state owned facility for the workers to get jobs now. “If there is anything that I can do, not only for the employees and patients but also for the economy of the Lehigh Valley, I will do.”

Representative Brennan believes the decision to close the facility would not likely be made before Mr. Rendell leaves office in Janaury 2011. “I’m pretty confident nothing will happen in the near future,” said Mr. Brennan.

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