Enloe tightens belt another notch

A few months after announcing it will close Glenn County facility, hospital makes more cuts

CLOSURE Trisha Paillon, a certified nursing assistant, says she doubts she has a job waiting for her once Enloe closes its Extended Care Unit. “I could get a job at a nursing home, but that would mean a $2-an-hour cut in pay,” says the single mother.

CLOSURE Trisha Paillon, a certified nursing assistant, says she doubts she has a job waiting for her once Enloe closes its Extended Care Unit. “I could get a job at a nursing home, but that would mean a $2-an-hour cut in pay,” says the single mother.

Photo by Tom Angel

Full house: The 22-bed extended-care facility that Enloe plans to close July 1 serves as an overflow for patients during flu season, employees say.

When Enloe Medical Center told employees in a letter dated May 15 that it had to make some cuts and adjustments or it would continue to loss money—as much as $9 million by next year—it said was committed to “retaining our excellent workforce.”

And this week, Ann Prater, Enloe’s director of public relations, echoed that sentiment.

“We’ll be cutting $15 million, but it will have a pretty happy ending,” she said. “We’re real confident that we have things headed in the right direction.”

Prater said layoffs would be held to a minimum, and she had heard of only one worker facing termination.

Some employees are skeptical. Trisha Paillon, a certified nursing assistant, fears she may lose her job and says other employees feel the same way but are afraid to say anything.

Included in the proposed changes is the closing of the Extended Care Unit, the 22-bed facility on Cohasset Road that once housed Enloe’s competition, Chico Community Hospital, before Enloe bought it out a few years ago. If not closed, Prater said, that unit alone will lose $1 million.

Extended Care serves those who need at least 15 days of recovery before they can go home or move to another facility.

“We only get reimbursed $150 to $190 a day, and that has to cover x-rays, food and the physicians’ pay,” Prater said.

The Extended Care Unit employs about two dozen people, and Prater said they would all be reassigned or otherwise absorbed into other units of the hospital. Paillon, who has worked at Extended Care for nearly three years, says she has her doubts.

On May 29 she received a letter from her bosses, Leslie Fonseca and Barbara Dahlke, that listed six options available to Extended Care workers. Those range from being offered a position of similar status to a current position, to the chance of displacing “a less senior employee.”

If the employee chooses not to displace another employee and is not offered another position, the letter goes on, “you will be eligible for severance pay of two weeks.”

If there is no position offered that an employee is qualified for, that employee will “receive severance benefits of two weeks.”

Paillon, a single mother of a 3-year-old boy, said there are only four positions currently listed as available for her qualifications, and those are either part-time or temporary.

Paillon said she just learned of the changes in a meeting on May 29.

“We were told we had a mandatory meeting, and Barbara Dahlke told us [that] due to cutbacks we were closing the Extended Care Unit on July 1,” she said.

Ironically, Paillon said, a recent state health survey gave the Extended Care Unit high marks.

“So Barbara told us, ‘What a better way to go out than in a blaze of glory.’ She was all teary-eyed.”

Paillon says she resents the way the news is being handled by the administration.

“This is very unprofessional, very tasteless,” she said. “I just found out about this, but my boss knew six months ago. They have no compassion. It’s sickening and heart-wrenching to think about being out of work.”

Prompt Care and Behavioral Health, also located at the old Community Hospital, will remain.

Earlier this year, Enloe announced it could no longer afford to operate the Glenn Medical Center, which it took over five years ago. For the same reasons—a lack of reimbursement from the state for Medi-Cal patients, spiraling costs and unfunded mandates—Enloe must now look to make big cuts in its own operations.

Enloe employees will now also have to start sharing the cost of their health and dental insurance. However, that cost will be balanced for most, Prater said, by a $6 million employee compensation package.

Part of that package, at least for registered nurses, is based on the collective bargaining agreement struck between Enloe and the California Nurses Association, the union voted in by RNs in 2000.

Prater said the contract with the CNA allows for the changes in the way health and dental insurance policies are structured.

A letter to employees dated May 29 quotes that part of the contract: “During the life of this Agreement the Employer will provide eligible Regular Full-time and Part-time Nurses covered by this Agreement with the same health, dental, vision … as are provided to its other employees.”

In other words, the contract requires only that health benefits be applied the same to all employees, union or otherwise. So when the policy is downgraded, it must be downgraded across the board.

Most full-time employees—72 hours or more per pay period—beginning July 1 will contribute $25 per month for health and $5 for dental for themselves and $121 and $27.56 for their spouses, $60 and $19.80 for one child or $165 and $34.45 for family coverage (spouse and more than one child).

Enloe is also changing how it offers other benefits such as vacation and sick time. Employees hired before July 1, 1997, who have built up a reserve of vacation hours valued at more than $500 will be paid one-half of that value, with the rest going into the employee’s retirement (401(a)) account. The same policy goes for sick hours.

“Anyone will tell you that health care is in crises,” said Prater, who’s had been the harbinger of one bad news release after another since she came on at Enloe last year.

“And it’s not just Enloe," she added. "It’s nationwide."