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Is Howard University Hospital backing off on nursing cutbacks?

Monday - 5/19/2014, 4:49am  ET

Howard University Hospital has apparently backed away from planned layoffs of some of its nursing staff — at least for now.

In April, union leaders were told “the Howard University Hospital reduction in force is on hold until further notice,” said D.C. Nurses Association staff attorney Ed Smith. They received the notice following a picket outside the hospital's entrance protesting what they called failure to follow negotiated procedures after deciding to lay off nurses.

More than a month later, DCNA has received no further update regarding those layoffs, Smith said.

Howard University spokeswoman Kerry-Ann Hamilton said Friday there is no update. “No final decisions have been made regarding nurse staffing levels at this time,” she said. In the past, she has said the university has been working in good faith with its union and that proposed workforce changes would not compromise patient care.

In February, Howard said it planned to cut about 200 staff positions in the subsequent months, about 4 percent of its workforce. The 482-bed teaching hospital said the cuts would likely impact nursing staff as well.

Howard University is one of the District's largest employers with close to 4,900 employees, according to Washington Business Journal research. Its metro-area enrollment is more than 10,000 students.

The school has been dealing with financial and strategic struggles of late, after a university trustee wrote a letter in June publicly detailing large problems within the university and hospital. Last fall, the university hired a consultant to help it find a buyer or partner for the struggling hospital.

In July, the hospital announced a plan to furlough nearly its entire workforce, requiring 1,700 employees to take the equivalent of 12 days of unpaid leave over the next year. In June, Howard cut about 75 staff positions across the university and the hospital.

© 2014 American City Business Journals, Inc.