ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Since employees from the former St. Clare’s Hospital in Schenectady had their pension benefits terminated in 2018, they’ve been looking to the State and Diocese for answers. This week, NEWS10 put pressure on Governor Hochul’s office to respond.
NEWS10’s Giuliana Bruno met with a group of St. Clare’s pensioners to get their immediate reaction to the following statement from a spokesperson for Governor Kathy Hochul:
“These hardworking New Yorkers deserve better and we look forward to working with stakeholders and legislators to determine whether there are additional solutions on top of what the state has contributed.”Matt Janiszewski, Upstate Press Secretary for Governor Kathy Hochul
“I hope that’s true. I really do. It’s more than we heard from the previous governor,” said Peter Jones, a former employee of St. Clare’s after hearing the statement read aloud. “I think that we just have to hope, and we have to pray, and we have to believe that in the next few years, we’re all going to be made whole.”
For Jones, it goes beyond getting the rest of the money he’s entitled to. He worked in H.R. At St. Clare’s as a recruiter, serving as the face of these pension benefits to new hires, before it all came crashing down.
“I’d like to see my promise to them honored,” Jones said.
St. Clare’s was closed over a decade ago by a requirement of the state’s Berger Commission, and its operations were absorbed by Ellis Medicine. The pensioners are still working with attorneys in a lawsuit they filed against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany in September 2019.
“We are very hopeful that [the lawyers] going to look at what occurred at the time of the merger, and look at the decisions that the Berger commission recommended,” said Angela Stewart, who worked as a nurse at St. Clare’s.
The state, which already contributed $28.5 million to cover pension liabilities, maintains that the mismanagement of the pension fund is the responsibility of the Diocese, and they should fund their fair share.
In response to the statement from Governor Hochul’s office, the Diocese wrote:
“We look forward to working with the Governor for the good of the St. Clare’s Hospital pensioners, whose precarious financial situation was precipitated by the State’s decision to force the closure of the hospital in 2008. While the Diocese of Albany was never involved in the ownership, governance, and operation of St. Clare’s Hospital or St. Clare’s Corporation, including its assets, investments, liabilities and pension plan, Bishop Scharfenberger, as a board member, continues to work with pensioners, legislators, and other interested parties in seeking a solution to this very difficult situation. Many of them have called for the State to join this effort because of its role in the hospital closing and its pension woes.”Mary DeTurris Poust, Director of Communications, Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany
The pensioners are cautiously optimistic that hearing from both the Church and the State means they can make up for time they lost fighting for their cause during the pandemic.
“Court systems are shut down, people are having zoom meetings,” said Maureen Campbell, another pensioner. “We can’t go out and rally, or be close to people, or to try to keep this thing going in the spotlight.”
“I’m delighted that they did answer you, and I am very grateful to channel 10 for one more time standing up and giving us the support that we need,” said Mary Hartshorne, a pensioner who has been leading the fight for answers.
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