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Carbon to cover personal time of workers

Published April 30. 2010 05:00PM

Carbon County officials plan to reimburse Weatherwood employees for personal, sick, and vacation time that will not be transferred during the sale.

During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, the board discussed that it is committed to covering the personal time earned at the nursing home that will be lost as a result of the sale of the facility in Weatherly. Guardian Elder Care of Brockway will take ownership of the 200-bed nursing home on June 30.

Commissioner William O'Gurek, chairman, said there were two important items in regard to employees that came out of the asset purchase agreement between Carbon County and Elder Care. They included that employees will not lose their seniority and that some of the personal, sick and vacation time that has been accumulated will be transferred over so that employees still can take vacations and sick leave.

"We stand prepared and committed to make good to the employees in some respect," O'Gurek said of the reimbursement announcement. He explained that Guardian will first determine how many days can be transferred from the accumulated time.

Once those figures are determined, the county will decide on a reimbursement plan for the employees.

Currently, under the contract in place, O'Gurek explained the county pays 50 percent of the time earned at the time of retirement, which would exclude some employees. But in this case, everyone will be included.

"We stand prepared to address this on behalf of everyone in the interest of being fair," he said. "It's going to cost us a considerable amount of money to pay sick time off at whatever percentage is determined, minus what is transferred to Guardian, but we think that it's worth every dime. It's a way of showing the people that we appreciated the time they accumulated because of working loyal to us all those years."

O'Gurek noted that the county now needs to work out all the final details of the reimbursements.

The commissioners also spoke about a recent visit to Weatherwood, in which representatives of Guardian were present.

O'Gurek said they met with the employees to talk about the company and what their plans are for the facility.

"We know this is an emotional time and there is a lot of anxiety and uncertainty about jobs and benefits and retirement and Guardian," he said. We thought the proper thing to do would be to introduce the employees to Guardian.

O'Gurek added that he was impressed by Guardian's way of handling the situation.

"I told our employees that the more I heard those people talk about their capabilities and their intentions and resources that they can provide clinically and operationally to our existing people and their departments, the more I came to the realization that is why they should be in the business and we (the county) shouldn't be in the business."

Commissioners Charles Getz and Wayne Nothstein also spoke about the recent meeting between Guardian and the employees.

Getz said that he was impressed by the company representatives.

Nothstein said he felt the meeting helped answer some of the questions that have been flying around since the sale announcement was made.

"Most of the employees are very receptive," he said, adding that there are a few employees that you can see are angry. "I know a lot of employees are scared. They're afraid they'll lose their jobs. They're worried about their future and their benefits. We tried to calm some of those fears through this meeting."

The sale of Weatherwood has generated a lot of interest in the nursing home world since it was officially put on the market on Jan. 14.

Following the announcement of the sale, 47 interested parties signed confidentiality agreements, which allowed them to access all necessary information, and over a dozen companies opted for tours of the facility.

On March 25, the commissioners announced that Guardian Elder Care would be the company purchasing Weatherwood at a price of $11,050,000.

Last week, the county announced that an asset purchase agreement between the two entities has been reached and the transfer of ownership would take place on June 30.

Carbon County commissioners were forced to make the decision to sell the nursing home after a financial analysis was completed last year. The analysis showed that the home, which is operating on a $3 million deficit, would continue to cost the county millions unless changes were made.

The commissioners have continually stressed that making the decision to sell Weatherwood was not one they wanted to make, but the county could not afford to continue to lose $8,200 a day at the facility.

In a related matter, Carbon County approved the request for a proposal from the Pelican Insurance Program, a division of CCAP Insurance Programs, for the purchase of tail coverage insurance. The insurance would be effective for two years and would cover general liability and professional liability coverage for the nursing home operations.

The insurance policy would cover Carbon County in the event that there is a claim filed that was during the time the county owned Weatherwood.

O'Gurek said that there are no issues that they know of that would be "indicative of a claim or law suit."

The estimated amount for the insurance is $74,000.

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