Thursday, July 25, 2013

More to the story

Posted on Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 4:00 AM

The Goodman Group and Hillside Health Care Center would like to respond to a number of items covered in your July 18 article, “Nurses are sick and tired.” Here is our response:

How do you know when someone, despite his or her charm, is misleading you? You check the facts. Unfortunately, the Independent was beguiled by spokespersons for UNITE HERE Local 427 and their histrionic claims.

When your reporter contacted us, we declined to discuss the specifics of our position because we respect our employees and their union representatives and chose to honor the process of contract negotiations, which are continuing. We believe it is in the best interests of all parties to keep talks confidential until contract negotiations conclude or collapse. We avoid airing complicated issues (which are not easily distilled into pithy comments) in the public arena.

However, since the union opted to “talk outside the talks” and that talk resulted in misstatements and incorrect inferences, we are compelled to defend our reputation and set the record straight.

Here are the facts:

• The talks are not a contract dispute, as reported. They are negotiations for a new contract. The former contract initially expired on June 30, 2013 and has been extended.

• The union refused our offer to extend the contract with all existing terms, plus a wage increase at a higher percentage.

• The last wage increase per the former contract was in July 2012; an extension of that would have taken effect July 1, 2013.

• Kari Hoffman was quoted as saying she “hasn’t seen a raise of more than 20 cents an hour in over a year.” Under the former contract, Hoffman received a cost of living and merit raise of $.34 per hour in July 2012, which would have continued under the contract extension. Effective October 2012, she applied and was selected for a position that pays her an additional $1 per hour.

• The story inferred that employees are concerned about how our residents and patients are treated at Hillside Health Care Center. This is not supported in fact. An independently conducted Hillside Employee Satisfaction Survey last April showed more than three out of four employees (78 percent) would recommend Hillside for the care patients receive, judging it at as “good” or “excellent.”

• Union reps claimed that Hillside is “forced to buy or borrow supplies from other facilities.” Correct. At the three local communities managed by The Goodman Group, we do share resources to take advantage of bulk purchasing/shipping, volume pricing and effective allocation of little-used equipment. It is insincere for union spokespersons to misrepresent cost efficiency and purchasing power as miserly.

• The absurd statement from union reps that “the same meals are served to residents for days on end” is easily disproved: Patients have several menu choices every day. Meals are planned in advance and a monthly calendar of daily menu choices is distributed and posted. All long-term care facilities are required by law to provide variety, for nutritional diversity as well as to provide a range of tastes. Patients who request the same, or a few, menu choices every day, do so against our dietary advice. Menus, patients’ individual diets and their dietary requirements are all directed, managed and monitored by Hillside’s registered dietician.

• Union reps’ citing of turnover and an attempt to link it to staffing is deceitful on two counts: 1) Hillside Health Care Center staffing standards exceed the state’s minimum staff requirements. This readily available information on total nursing staff at Hillside is posted daily. Using the last two weeks as an example, state staffing requirements for Hillside are calculated to be 1,495 hours and actual nursing hours paid out were 2,869 hours (nearly double) 2) Turnover has decreased 12 to 15 percent over two years.

This story is potentially injurious to the mutual interest of the parties because our center’s reputation is paramount to our position in the marketplace. The outcome of people taking these statements at face value could potentially result in loss of market share at Hillside. Isn’t this counter to employees’ stake in job security, continuing wage increases and better benefits?

We have a felt need to defend the reputation of our community and the 78 percent of Hillside employees who rate the care they provide our residents as good to excellent. Inferences to the contrary illustrate why we refuse to participate in public dialogue (“he said/she said”) while negotiations are continuing. It is counterproductive outside the meeting room and there is so much “inside baseball” surrounding all the issues, to simplify it colors interpretation of the true facts.

It is not a winning proposition for any of the parties, including the Missoula Independent.

Paul Teagle

Regional Director of Operations

The Goodman Group

Bernice Zimmermann

Executive Director

Hillside Health Care Center

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