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East Valley Focus

VAN NUYS : Layoffs After Nursing Home Sale Protested

February 02, 1995|L.D. STRAUB

Health-care workers and union organizers protested Wednesday at a Van Nuys convalescent hospital after jobs were lost when the facility was sold.

Three-quarters of the workers at Berkley Valley Convalescent Hospital, formerly Hillhaven Nursing Home, were laid off when the hospital changed hands at 11 p.m. Tuesday.

About 10 people--half of them former employees--passed out flyers Wednesday to the sparse, early morning foot traffic along the 6600 block of Sepulveda Boulevard, where the hospital is situated.

Between 50 and 60 people, some who reportedly have worked at the facility for as long as 20 years, found themselves no longer employed when Hillhaven Corp., the nation's second-largest nursing-home chain, unexpectedly sold the facility to Berkley Centers.

Berkley Valley is related to Berkley East and Berkley West in Santa Monica, though officials at the center said each is run independently.

However, Steven Galper, administrator of Berkley Valley and the main target of the protests, said he hired many former Hillhaven staff but brought in some of his own people too. "That is both my right and, I think, responsibility."

The company's Berkley East facility was closed last year due to earthquake damage. Though the plan is to demolish the building and rebuild, the facility remains closed indefinitely. More than 200 people lost their jobs there.

Galper said he wanted to bring as many of the former Santa Monica workers as possible--and other staffers of his choice--to the Valley with him. The positions he did not fill with his own employees, he opened to those displaced at Hillhaven, he said.

Still, the transition is difficult for the newly unemployed Hillhaven workers and for patients. Hospital residents as well as their family members are upset that some people who have cared for them for years are gone. New people are changing their sheets and serving meals.

Moreover, said Gary Guthum, health-care organizer for the Service Employees Union, those fortunate enough to salvage their jobs were asked to stay on at $2 to $3 an hour less than what they had been making.

Galper characterized the plight of the displaced workers as "unfortunate," but called it "a normal snag in the transition of operators."

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