Former St. Clare’s employees allowed to proceed with pension case

[anvplayer video=”5079883″ station=”998132″]

About 1,100 former St. Clare’s Hospital employees who had their pension benefits terminated in 2018 got some long-awaited news Thursday.

The State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division ruled that their case seeking the money for their pensions can go forward—rejecting the Albany Diocese and St. Clare’s Corporation’s request to dismiss the case.

NewsChannel 13 talked to the chair of the group of retired healthcare workers, the St. Clare’s Pension Recovery Alliance, fighting to get their money back. AARP attorney Dara Smith is arguing their case.

The group says it feels like hope is alive after they say their future was pulled out from under them.

It’s been more than three years since retired employees of St. Clare’s Hospital in Schenectady had their pensions pulled, a decade after the hospital shuttered. It’s now an Ellis Medicine location.

“Lots of magic happens at Christmas and I think this is some of it,” said Mary Hartshorne, Chair of the St. Clare’s Pension Recovery Alliance.

Some magic for people like Hartshorne, who worked as an ultrasound tech for decades at St. Clare’s.

“You can ask anybody, and they will tell you a story about a relative, a friend or even themselves possibly, who were patients in St. Clare’s hospital, and for who we took excellent care,” she said.

She says they feel betrayed to learn the diocese, an institution they trusted, wouldn’t take care of them.

“Our faith is a big part of everything because St. Clare’s has been related to the church and part of the church all our lives,” Hartshorne said.

She’s tried getting the attention of Governor Kathy Hochul, but she says it hasn’t gone anywhere.

“I’m really, really disappointed that she hasn’t found five minutes for us,” she said.

And as another Christmas passes, and they continue the long court battle, Hartshorne says the former healthcare workers continue to suffer.

“People who can’t afford their medicine, their groceries, their rent or mortgage, their rent or heat,” she explained. “We’re all in our 50s, 60s, 70s, most of us, anyway, and so it’s even harder, because our whole chemical makeup, our bodies, everything, react to stress much differently than younger, healthy people.”

And as the group ages, not all of them will get to see how their case plays out in court.

“That’s the hard part, that they didn’t live to see this come to fruition,” she said.

The next step is discovery in their lawsuit, which is expected to begin early next year.

We reached out to the Diocese of Albany for a response. NewsChannel 13 did not hear back at the time this article was published. The Diocese has told media outlets in the past that it did not manage the pension fund.