UPDATE 4:45 p.m. 7/13/2020: This article has been updated to include the Service Employees International Union’s response to the positions eliminated by Mountain Health Network.
HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) – Mountain Health Network is eliminating more than 60 positions due to expenses affected by the pandemic.
The health care system says 64 positions between St. Mary’s Medical Center and Cabell Huntington Hospital are being cut to help offset lost revenue. Mike Mullins, FACHE, president and CEO of Mountain Health Network says the CARES Act relief funds have helped to offset some of the losses the hospitals saw when elective surgeries and several other services were suspended, but he says that has only covered a fraction of the losses.
“We do not anticipate any additional government relief at this time, so the funds we received to date must be used to offset losses for the remainder of 2020, possibly longer,” Mullins said.
Representatives of the Service Employees International Union opposed the decision, saying they were given no prior notice of the layoffs and have filed labor charges today with the National Labor Relations Board. They also say the positions cut in the laundry department would be outsourced to an unknown organization, which according to the SEIU, would violate a “no outsourcing” clause in the workers’ collective bargaining agreement.
“This is a difficult time for a lot people,” SEIU officials said. “Slashing the jobs of sleep lab workers in a pandemic runs contrary to the needs of this area at this critical time. Outsourcing the jobs of laundry workers, in violation of their Collective Bargaining agreement, we believe this is a gross contract violation and an unfair labor practice. Even worse, while eliminating jobs, the Cabell Huntington Hospital system is moving forward with spending $10.5M amid a pandemic to acquire the Huntington Internal Medicine Group (HIMG).”
Positions being eliminated are among leadership, furloughed positions, the CHH adult sleep lab and the CHH laundry department, according to Mountain Health officials. Mullins says none of the positions eliminated provide direct patient care.
“We value each of the impacted staff member’s contributions and are offering them other open positions to consider throughout the system that they are qualified. For those who do not choose other positions we are providing severance packages and will work with them through this transition,” Mullins said.
According to the union, nurses with Cabell Huntington Hospital also requested a meeting with the chair of the Cabell Huntington Hospital board of directors. The SEIU says she allegedly declined to meet with the workers citing “active negotiations.”
“It is difficult to understand the rationale for cutting jobs while the hospital moves forward with a costly new acquisition at a time when the area needs these jobs most,” union officials said. “These events show more than ever why hospital workers with the Cabell Huntington Hospital and St. Mary’s Medical Center, which are operated by the Mountain Health Network, need a union – to protect good jobs in our community, to speak out on behalf of patients and quality care, and for these workers to stand together for their themselves and their families.”
Mullins also said the American Hospital Association estimates hospitals will lose another $120.5 billion through the end of 2020 due to reduced patient volumes. Cabell Huntington Hospital and St. Mary’s Medical Center have both reached a peak of about 90% of their pre-pandemic volumes since elective surgeries and other services resumed May 4.
“We truly appreciate our community’s support as we move through these changes and continue to provide quality healthcare to are region,” Mullins said. “We must respond to the current realities while remaining focused on providing high-quality care for patients and building a health care system that will serve future generations.”