After 13 years as a cashier in the cafeteria at Hahnemann University Hospital, Tammy Smith is entering the job market again.
Smith, 52, of Southwest Philly, is optimistic about her prospects, but she’s worried about a few things: competing with younger people who have less experience but potentially more education. Getting a job quickly so she can get her husband, who suffered a stroke three years ago, on her health care. And having to take a pay cut.
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“That’s another fear,” she said, “starting all over again for pennies. I can’t do it.”
As a unionized employee of Sodexo based at Hahnemann, Smith made $21 an hour.
Smith is one of the hundreds of soon-to-be laid-off Hahnemann workers who showed up Thursday at the Convention Center for a “Hire Hahnemann” job fair hosted by the City of Philadelphia and Philadelphia Works and funded by state dollars released when a major employer announces layoffs. The Center City hospital filed for bankruptcy last month and, despite protests from unions and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, will officially shut down Sept. 6, though it’s ending many of its service lines before then. This week, the hospital saw its patient population drop to single digits.
The Convention Center’s ballrooms were packed with employer booths and job seekers, some in seafoam green scrubs and surgical hairnets, and others with Hahnemann badges around their necks. About 200 employers attended the fair, half of them in the health-care industry, said Philadelphia Works spokesperson Dawn Thomas. Casinos, hotels, and food service companies were also exhibiting.
The offerings at the job fair reflected the landscape of the growing health-care industry: There were a few health systems and hospitals, such as Temple Health and UPMC Pinnacle in Harrisburg, but much more dominant were the nonhospital health-care providers: urgent-care providers, ambulatory care centers, senior-living facilities, and home health care. Jobs at these nonhospital providers are growing much faster than those at hospitals, according to state data and national analyses.
The lack of growth in hospitals will likely mean a cut in pay and benefits for Hahnemann workers, especially those who have lower levels of education, said Cheryl Feldman, who runs union 1199c’s Training and Upgrading Fund.
“Hospital jobs are the premium jobs in the industry,” she said in an interview last month.
Also, Hahnemann nurses, techs, and service workers such as food and housekeeping were unionized. Most nonhospital health-care providers are not unionized.
Hahnemann workers could face other barriers to finding jobs, according to a Philadelphia Works analysis. They might have lapsed credentials and need to get retrained. Available jobs may be outside of the city and not accessible by public transportation.
At the fair, salary was on Paul Pfender’s mind as he and his colleague, fellow nurse Amy Sicinski, discussed which health systems were rumored to pay poorly. Pfender, 56, started working at Hahnemann more than two decades ago, leaving for a five-year stint at Holy Redeemer in Montgomery County, before he returned. The suburban hospitals pay less, he said.
“The one hospital I came here for is gone,” Pfender said, rolling his eyes and gesturing at Penn Medicine’s table.
Pfender, who specializes in colonoscopies and endoscopies, hoped to be able to follow the rest of his team of physicians, who were going to Chestnut Hill Hospital, but he’s still waiting for an interview. Sicinski, 30, had worked at Hahnemann for less than a year, but felt confident that she would stand out in the job market because of her endoscopy specialization. In the meantime, she has a temp job.
And then there were health-care workers who didn’t work at Hahnemann but jumped at the opportunity anyway. Briheem Campbell, 27, works as a research assistant but has for the last few years tried to get back into patient care as a better-paid certified nursing assistant. It’s been rough, though — lots of resumes, no feedback.