The Times West Virginian

Opinion

October 16, 2013

All working toward keeping Fairmont General alive and vibrant

We have been extremely encouraged by what we have seen from the union workers at Fairmont General Hospital.

You have probably read where they overwhelmingly ratified a new contract last week. And that contract froze any wage increases for at least a year while also calling for the employees to pay part of their own health-care premiums. That’s something they had never done before. Such suggestions usually result in long and messy contract talks.

These union employees are certainly tuned into the situation. They are aware that the hospital recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. And as Jason Ware, the administrative organizer for Service Employees international Union (SEIU) recently stated, “Employees came in wanting to save the hospital. They came into negotiations knowing about the bankruptcy, and in order for the hospital to survive, it was going to take sac­rifice by the employees, and that’s where it ended up.”

The SEIU union even sincerely suggested many ways the hospital could cut back.

One involves some sacrifice by the employees. The hospital certainly received that.

“That’s a very unusual situation to be in,” Ware said. These union employees, which number around 300, gave up an estimated $1 million annually over the course of the three-year contract, which does not expire until Oct. 31, 2016. But lawyers for the hospital said that a clause was put into the contract saying that if things get better, the hospital can renegotiate wages in a year. That offers a ray of hope for the union employees.

The Fairmont General employees were well aware of the big changes that have occurred at Fairmont General over the past weeks. The first announcement was that Fairmont General president CEO Robert  Marquardt was no longer employed at the hospital and then followed similar announcements that vice president of finance/CFO Dan Honerbrink and FGH vice president of human resources Jim Harris were gone as well.

There were many other things the SEIU did to make their contract easier on the hospital.

At the time of the announcement, attorney Michael Garrison said that he has spent “a lot of time with the board, and the board took a lot of time to really scrutinize its options. They all understand very clearly their fiduciary duty, and they made a difficult vote, but they made it because they really want to keep an acute-care hospital in Marion County.”

Everyone wants to see that happen.

Kevin Carr, an attorney at Spilman Thomas & Battle, served as the lead negotiator for the hospital and expressed how much the employees impressed him.

“I think it was evident on our side of the table that employees and the union leadership were very, very serious about not only making sure they took care of the members and make sure they had a fair wage and a good benefit package, but it also struck us that they were very serious about making changes that would put the hospital in a position to be viable and continue to provide services in the community,” he said.

“I was personally struck by how much the hospital meant to them and how cooperatively they were willing to address the issues.”

The hospital’s other union, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store (RWDS) Union Local 550, will enter negotiations today. This union represents about 170-180 support services and maintenance employees.

So far everyone appears to be working together to save the hospital and showing the kind of esprit de corps that should do just that. These contract negotiations could have indeed been messy. Instead everyone seems to be working toward the same objective — keeping Fairmont General Hospital alive and vibrant.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • COLUMN: Freedom of Information — if you can pay

    Several years ago, I made a Freedom of Information request to a local government agency. Within the five business days, as required by law, a packet of information was delivered to the office. I expected a bill, as most government offices have a charge that ranges from 25 cents to $1.25 per page for copies of the documents we request.

    April 20, 2014

  • The reassuring spirit of Easter: One of new hope and beginnings

    During the sub-zero and snow-filled months of winter, we maintained a spirit of hope that spring was on the way. It has now become a reality as all nature stretches and yawns and awakens once more to a new beginning. The fragrance of spring awakens our waiting nostrils, the budding beauty of new life brightens our eyes, and the reassuring idea of renewal stimulates our minds.

    April 20, 2014

  • Unsung heroes handling calls in emergencies are appreciated

    Thankfully, we live in a community where help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, just by dialing three numbers — 9-1-1.
    During this week, which is recognized as National Public Safety Tele-Communicator’s Week nationwide, we need to remember that on the other end of that line are the men and women here in this county who are always there in case of accident, crimes, medical emergencies and any other catastrophic event.

    April 18, 2014

  • Message to ‘buckle up and park the phone’ is saving lives

    A figure that we haven’t seen that much in recent years is the highway death toll for a given period.
    Is the death toll up, down or just about the same as it was?
    The West Virginia Southern Regional Highway Safety Program has announced there were 325 highway fatalities in 2013, the second-lowest number on record.

    April 17, 2014

  • State native Burwell can ‘deliver results’ as Health and Human Services secretary

    Sylvia Mathews Burwell might not be a name with which most people are immediately familiar.
    For the past year, she has run the budget office under President Barack Obama.
    Prior to that, she served as president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program and later the Wal-Mart Foundation.

    April 16, 2014

  • Marion scores well in recent health report but could do better

    When it comes to area-wide studies, especially on health, there’s usually good news and bad news.
    So was the recent report on the health of America’s counties released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently. The nationwide county study evaluated health outcomes and health factors, and ranked counties accordingly.

    April 13, 2014

  • COLUMN: ‘Instant’ news not always reliable

    Instant.
    That little word has a pretty big meaning. With origins that date back to the 15th century, it means urgent, current, immediate.
    But think about how that word has developed over the past few decades.
    Instant pudding. Instead of slaving over a hot stove for a few minutes, you can now pour cold milk and with a bit of stirring, instant pudding!

    April 13, 2014

  • Decision to be an organ donor can save lives

    Chelsea Clair watched as her father died waiting for a bone marrow transplant.
    So when she met Kyle Froelich at a car show in 2009 and heard about his struggles to find a kidney that would match his unique needs, she never hesitated to offer hers to the man she just met.

    April 11, 2014

  • Volunteers continue to have priceless impact on community

    Chances are, you know someone who volunteers. Perhaps you’re a volunteer yourself.
    Marion County is full of volunteers.
    They read to our youth.
    They assist nonprofit agencies.
    They serve on boards and committees.
    And in 2013, they spent a day picking up nearly 10 tons of garbage that had been tossed out on public property around Marion County.

    April 10, 2014

  • Proposed school calendar lives up to letter and spirit of law

    West Virginia state law requires that students be in a classroom for 180 days.

    April 9, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Politics
House Ads