The Big Apple’s giant new program to trace and contain coronavirus infections has been marred by a chaotic hiring process, leaving applicants who thought they were hired twisting in the wind and unsure of their future, The Post has learned.
“It’s just kind of an endless process,” said one applicant, whose job description changed without warning and saw their start date repeatedly delayed.
Another person familiar with the program described the city public hospital system’s management of the program as “a complete s–t show.”
“They’re giving confusion direction to the candidates,” the source added. “They don’t know what they want them to do. They have no training program at all.”
The massive delays were first reported by Gothamist, which said that much of the confusion was caused by shifting job descriptions and responsibilities.
And The Post reported Friday on the delays in the state hiring and training program being run by billionaire former mayor Mike Bloomberg.
New York City’s Health & Hospitals Corporation hired the Bachrach Group to staff up the program, which health experts say is crucial to containing future outbreaks of COVID-19.
The third-party recruiter describes the job in a posting on its website as performing “remote/field work in support of COVID-19 contact tracing, with alternative work schedules and/or compressed work weeks.”
It adds: “Conducts COVID-19 case interviews and contact tracing using a trauma-informed, culturally respectful approach that builds trust and facilitates the free sharing of information.”
It’s unclear how much Bachrach is being paid under the contract. Records show that the company has only scored two previous contracts for city work, worth less than $50,000 combined.
In a desperate bid for staff, city officials have also turned to insurance giant UnitedHealthcare Group to provide up to 700 temporary employees, known as “monitors.” They will make between $20-22 an hour, officials said, confirming reporting published by news nonprofit The City.
All told, officials hope to find at least 2,500 tracers — with 1,700 supposed to start by Monday.
The coronavirus has killed more than 21,000 people in New York City alone and left the city’s economy crippled by a shutdown meant to slow its spread to the point where efforts to test for infections and trace their source could catch up.
But, government watchdogs and city lawmakers have raised a slew of questions about City Hall’s rollout and management of the program, which has been mired in bureaucratic infighting since the beginning.
During past epidemics, the city’s well-regarded Health Department ran the tracing programs like this one to help battle diseases like HIV/AIDS and Ebola — and had already begun staffing up to run this effort.
But Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the program moved to the city’s public hospital system even though it has never before run a program like this.
City Hall sources chalked the decision to Hizzoner’s longstanding frustration with the Health Department and his toxic relationship with its top boss, Commissioner Oxiris Barbot. He maintains a much better rapport with the head of the hospital system, Mitch Katz.
The Council held a hearing into the decision and Comptroller Scott Stringer fired off a letter on May 8 demanding answers about the program’s transfer — with a deadline to provide answers by May 15.
The de Blasio administration has still not responded to Stringer’s queries.
It also was not immediately able to comment on this story.