Fay Binns

Succasunna, NJ

Joining the Hospital Center at Orange in 1978, I never dreamed I would still have been there 25 years later. As a young professional, I was not focused on retirement benefits but rather tried to eke out a living while raising my family. As the years went by, I settled into my employment and thoroughly enjoyed being part of the HCO family. As a “float” nurse, I rotated throughout most of the patient care areas and got to know a large number of fellow employees.   There were many changes along the way, most notably when HCO became affiliated with Cathedral Healthcare System in 1998; that move was supposed to strengthen us. Instead, our pension fund was frozen and all employees were encouraged to opt for a 401K, which was instituted with the assurance that our pension would still be viable. However, to our dismay, CHS quietly converted the pension to a “church plan” that removed the fund from the protection and oversight offered by the PBGC. This revelation was a stab in the heart as with advancing years, retirement become more real, and I was robbed of everything I had labored for over the years. With declining funds in the plan, the security blanket that such a fund would provide has been all but eliminated. Having to move on and seek employment at another institution in these later years was very difficult, but I was left with few options. With less than 10 years until retirement, there's a limited window of time to build a reasonable nest egg that could offer financial security during the golden years---but such is my plight.   CHS has a strong and unsettling history of shuttering hospitals, as evidenced by the demise of Columbus Hospital and St. James Hospital, both in Newark. Both suffered the same fate as our beloved HCO. It is also amazing how at times CHS denies owning or controlling HCO, yet at other times it deems each employee to be working for a Catholic institution. Certain services not condoned by the Catholics were terminated after the acquisition; but why go that far, if HCO wasn’t under CHS’ jurisdiction, as the organization variously claimed?   I applaud some of my former colleagues who have been working tirelessly for several years to bring some sanity to this insanity, keeping the dream alive and hoping for a favorable outcome.   May others learn from our plight and not fall victim to a “church plan.” Giving up is not an option – we must press on!