Outsourcing of health center jobs possible, employees in three departments told

September 19, 2017
Washington County Health Center

As the target date approaches for privatization of Washington County Health Center, Service Employees International Union Healthcare PA convened a meeting of its members there Monday, when they learned that jobs in the dietary, laundry and housekeeping departments may or may not be outsourced.

The county’s sale of the health center to Premier Healthcare Management LLC for $26.9 million is expected to be completed between Oct. 1 and 5.

There are about 55 workers in the three departments. The number of nursing and related positions, including licensed practical nurses and aides, is more than double that, but there has been no word about the status of those jobs.

“They have given us no communication on plans or ideas or restructuring,” said a spokesman for SEIU Healthcare PA in Harrisburg, who asked not to be named.

Premier will recognize the union, so members who remain in its employ at the 288-bed health center in Arden, Chartiers Township, when it is under new ownership will not have to revote or recertify SEIU Healthcare PA as their bargaining representative.

The county’s contract with SEIU Healthcare PA expired at the end of 2016.

“Washington County Health Center is a four-star facility, and the community, front-line workers and seniors who call it home are counting on new management to keep it that way,” said Carlos Rivera, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania vice president of long-term care, in a statement released to the Observer-Reporter.

“That means maintaining job standards by not outsourcing nursing home labor to the lowest bidder or creating undue uncertainty over future employment. And finally, it means a commitment to negotiating a fair, new union contract that will move job and resident care standards forward, not backward,” Rivera said.

Lisa Sofia, chief executive officer of Premier, when reached late Tuesday morning, said she was in a meeting. She did not immediately return a call for comment.

Meanwhile, Tim Kimmel, who has been both the health center administrator and director of the Washington County Department of Human Services since 2012, has let the commissioners know he will be working for Premier when the facility changes hands.

Kimmel, who has held the human services position since March 2004, completed course work at Community College of Allegheny County, passed state and federal licensing exams for nursing home administration and logged the required 1,000 hours of working under an interim health center administrator.

As human services director, departments Kimmel oversees include the Children and Youth Services agency, Aging Services, Child Care Information Services, Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and services for the homeless. His salary for overseeing these departments, plus the health center, has been $113,029.

Asked how Kimmel’s eventual departure will affect the human services position, Scott Fergus, Washington County director of administration, said, “We’re in the process of evaluating that now, and we’re looking at all of our options. We’ll no longer have the health center, which is time-consuming for that position.

Those (departmental) directors will report to me. We will not miss a beat.”

Fergus said his understanding is the state has approved a change of ownership for the adult day care operated at the health center, but that similar action has not been completed for the operation of the 40-year-old nursing home.

The health center last operated in the black in 2011, and since then, the county has infused the facility with more than $9 million to keep it afloat. Word of the county commissioners’ willingness to place the facility on the market surfaced in late November of last year, and, after looking at the facilities of firms that responded to request for proposals, the county announced Premier as its choice in June.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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