UPDATE | WARN notices handed out to OLBH employees

By  | 

ASHLAND, Ky. (WSAZ) -- UPDATE 1/29/20 @ 6:25 p.m.
A little over a week after the more than 1,000 employees at Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital were told they would be losing their jobs at the end of September, WARN notices reportedly handed out Wednesday have many employees concerned.

Several OLBH employees reached out to WSAZ Wednesday with copies of the WARN Notices they had been given.

One says, "Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital and Physcian Services will permanently close its operations in Ashland, Kentucky and the surrounding area by March 30, 2020."

The notice goes on to say the termination of the employees' position is expected to take place between March 30 and April 13, which is six months before the original closure date guven.

WSAZ reached out to OLBH officials to clarify the notices. In a statement they say,

"On Jan. 21, Bon Secours Mercy Health announced that Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital and affiliated services would close by no later than Sept. 30, 2020.

The closure date for each department, service and position will depend upon several factors, including the continued availability of providers and associates. We will be transparent and open as decisions are made regarding next steps and timing. It's important to know that a WARN Act notice is required by law and is not an indication of anticipated closure timing; rather it advises that as providers and caregivers transition to new employment, services and departments may also transition sooner than expected.

The WARN Act notice may be revised and reissued to associates over the course of the next nine months. We are committed to partnering with local organizations to help associates transition to new employment in the Tri-State area, and numerous job fairs have been held over the course of the last week, which shows that our community is in need of our compassionate, service-minded team. We are also identifying ways that associates can train for new career paths or stay within the ministry."



UPDATE 1/23/20 @ 7:55 p.m.
As Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital prepares to close its doors in September, more than 1,000 employees are now forced to figure out where they will work next.

"This isn't just a workplace for us," said one employee. "This is family. We spend more time with our coworkers than we do our family."

She says she can't talk freely about what's next because of fear of retaliation from hospital administration.

Employees are left with more questions after a recent article published in the Cincinnati Business Journal indicates that Bon Secours Mercy Health, the parent company of Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital is expected to top $10 billion in revenue this year. That's up from $8.5 billion last year.

The hospital sent us the following statement:

"The article spotlights Bon Secours Mercy Health President and CEO John Starcher's comments at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco January 13 - 16. At the conference, he spotlighted the acquisition of three southeastern Virginia hospitals and the investment by Golden Gate Capital in Ensemble, our revenue cycle management company. Much of the ministry's growth comes from non-traditional investments and businesses – including Ensemble and other B2B organizations – and innovative partnerships. This growth is valuable because, as noted, it helps us contend with more than $300M in inflationary costs each year, while reimbursements from government and commercial payers stay stable or decline."

For some employees, things aren't adding up.

"At the beginning of the month our hospital was completely full, we didn't have beds available for patients that were admitted from the ER," the employee said.

Employees gave us an FAQ sheet passed out, that states eligible staff will still get a 2.5 percent "across the board" base salary increase in March.

While OLBH is closing, the parent company is actually expanding. The Cincinnati-based company was formed in September 2018 by the merger of Bon Secours and Mercy Health. They purchased five hospitals in Ireland last year and just acquired three new facilities in Virginia.

"That kinda leaves us wondering why wasn't our hospital valuable enough to save?" the employee said.



UPDATE 1/22/20 @ 6 p.m.
Several health organizations jumped into action Wednesday when they heard the news that Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital would be closing in September.

"It was devastating to hear that," said Andrea Criss. "Anytime that patients are losing a hospital, it's devastation."

Criss is the manager of clinical training and development at Cabell Huntington Hospital.

Members of Mountain Health Network teamed up Wednesday to host a job fair at Bridges Christian Church in Kentucky.

"I have a lot of friends at Bellefonte," said Susan Beth Robinson. "Personally, I was heartbroken, I know how it feels. It's one of those things, unless you've been through it, you can't appreciate it. It's almost like a death. You're losing friends, as well as your livelihood."

In South Point, Ohio, Ohio Valley Physicians (OVP) hosted a job fair they had been planning for more than a week.

The group is looking to hire 25 positions for an upcoming in-patient care facility that will have 48 beds.

"Bellefonte has served the community in providing acute detox beds so that's really going to fill an important need in the community that we're coming behind them and opening," said Doug Sheils.

King's Daughters Medical Center (KDMC) will be hosting a Meet & Greet from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23.

There, you'll have an opportunity to speak with department leaders and ask questions.

Visit Russell Walk-In Care at 399 Diederich Blvd. will host a job fair from 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 26.

There you can learn more about available positions. Head to the Bellefonte Pavilion Large Conference Room on 2000 Ashland Drive in Russell.

KDMC will be holding open interviews from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28 and Wednesday, Jan. 29. You can meet with the Human Resources Department at 2208 Lexington Ave.

They'll hold additional open interviews from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5.

You can also give them a call at 606-408-0020.



UPDATE 1/21/20 @ 10 p.m.
Employees who have worked at Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital for years say it was devastating to learn Tuesday morning they'll soon have to find somewhere else to work, and their patients will have to find another place to get care.

Shelly Moore has been a nurse at the hospital for nearly eight years.

She was off Tuesday and got texts from co-workers letting her know they'd been told the hospital would be closing in September.

"It was very gut-wrenching," Moore said. "My mouth flew open. It was unbelievable."

Moore says it came as a big shock.

"There was no inkling, there were no rumors, there was no anything that this was going to take place," she said.

"I instantly was in tears," Samantha Cleaver, a nurse practitioner, said. "It's a tragedy for our community."

Bon Secours Health System says they made efforts to help sustain hospital operations, but it wasn't enough to operate effectively with all the competition.

"What kills my soul the worst is my patients," Moore said. "A lot of our patients came to the hospital because of it being a smaller, homey, family-oriented type of hospital. They were on a first-name basis. They had more one-on-one care, I believe. They just felt comfortable there. It's sad. If you go somewhere else, I don't know where you'll experience that again."

The interim president of the hospital says they'll be working with employees to help them find other jobs, and they'll continue providing care as normal until they close in September.

Greenup resident Beth Palmer was in the hospital's emergency room with her daughter Tuesday morning as word was getting around among employees that the hospital would be closing.

"It was just hard to watch their faces fall," Palmer said. "That was very emotional for me. Even the employees, the social workers, the registrars, they don't know what they're doing. One of the phlebotomists was crying because she just found out she's having a baby, and now she'll have no money to feed her with."

Several healthcare companies will host job fairs Wednesday for Bellefonte employees.

St. Mary's and Cabell Huntington Hospital, which recently formed a cooperative health network, will meet with the displaced Bellefonte workers all day Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Bridges Christian Church in Russell.

OVP Health Network will also host a job fair and take applications all day Wednesday at the Lawrence County, Ohio Chamber of Commerce in South Point.

Keep checking the WSAZ app for the latest information.



ORIGINAL STORY 1/21/20
A hospital in Eastern Kentucky is shutting down later this year.

Bon Secours Health System says it will be exiting acute and outpatient care in the Ashland and Tri-state communities by the end of September 2020, resulting in the closure of Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital (OLBH), system-owned care sites and its physician network Bellefonte Physician Services.

Bon Secours says it has made robust efforts to help sustain hospital operations, but says it's "not enough to effectively operate in an environment that has multiple acute care facilities competing for the same patients, providers and services."

Our Lady of Bellefonte has a staff of about 1,000 employees.

Jason Asic, OLBH interim president, says,“We take the responsibility that comes with this decision very seriously, and we do not go into it lightly. We commit to working closely with our associates to share timely and transparent information, especially as it relates to the transition of services and employment opportunities and career fairs."

Asic also says they will work diligently to ensure opportunities across the ministry are made available, as well as working with area employers to identify opportunities close to home. He says they also are establishing partnerships across the Tri-state to help those who may want to explore a different career.

“While this transition is underway, we will continue to serve our patients with compassion and dignity, and we remain focused on our founding congregations’ steadfast commitment to ensuring that compassionate care is available for each of our patients, communities and associates – especially in times of need. We are exploring additional ways that we can support our community’s needs going forward.”

Bon Secours says providers will work with their patients individually to ensure a smooth continuity of care. They say more information will be provided in the coming months. In the interim, care will continue as normal.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear released the following statement:

"While today is devastating for so many families in the Ashland area, I am committed to working with regional leaders to ensure access to affordable health care and to replace the jobs being lost. My administration will do everything we can to help those directly impacted by the sudden closure."

Rep. Danny Bentley of Russell issued the following statement upon hearing news that Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital will be closing in September of this year:

“The announcement that Bellefonte Hospital is closing is devastating news for our community. We have so many critical health care needs that are best met by a local facility,” Rep. Danny Bentley, a pharmacist and well respected advocate for access to quality health care said. “I served as a volunteer hospital board member for 9 years under its previous ownership and I have seen firsthand the impact this facility makes on Greenup County. My greatest fear is that if we can’t find a way to prevent it from closing, we will never see it reopen. I have called upon Governor Beshear’s office to work with me and our local officials to do all we can to keep the doors open and the people of this community served.”

Mike Mullins, president and CEO of Mountain Health Network, released the following statement:

“Mountain Health Network is saddened by the news of Bellefonte’s impending closure and the impact on its workforce and the community. Unfortunately, this is the result of a very turbulent industry. We are committed to serving this community’s medical needs as well as offering great opportunities for available jobs.”

Meanwhile, St. Mary's Medical Center and Cabell Huntington Hospital, members of Mountain Health Network in Huntington, announced they will host a health care professionals job fair for affected OLBH employees. It is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday at Bridges Christian Church, 1402 Kenwood Dr., in Russell, Kentucky.

The job fair will take place in Room 120. Attendees should enter through the gym entrance. Health care professionals of all types are invited to apply. Immediate positions are available at both hospitals, according to the announcement.

Keep checking the WSAZ app for the latest information.