Sen. Yager: State law not followed in closing Scott County hospital

News release via Senate Republican Caucus
(NASHVILLE) – State Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston) said today he has contacted the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Tennessee Health Licensure and Regulation Office, and the Health Services and Development Agency in regards to enforcing state law and licensure requirements regarding the notification of closure of Pioneer Community Hospital of Scott. The action came after Pioneer employees found out on June 16 that their jobs would end in ten days when the facility is closed. Yager said this runs afoul of state law and licensing requirements.

“I have contacted Ann Rutherford Reed, who is Director of Licensure Division of Health Licensure and Regulation Office of Health Care Facilities; so that our state law is followed,” said Senator Yager. The state of Tennessee and these employees were not given proper notice. It is hard enough to find out about losing your job. Not having adequate notice makes that loss even more difficult. My focus right now is to see that these employees are treated fairly.”

Under the state’s Certificate of Need (CON) requirements, Yager said notice is required before any critical access hospital can be closed. He requested Director Reed enforce this provision against Pioneer, telling her “a 10-day notice is totally inadequate and contrary to your policy.”

Yager reiterated his call for proper notice in a communication directed to Melanie Hill, Executive Director of the Health Services and Development Agency saying, “As you know TCA 68-11-1607 (a) (9) requires Pioneer to obtain a CON for closing.” He continued, “I am requesting you require Pioneer to comply with this law.”

In addition, Yager contacted Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Burns Phillips saying, “I am asking you and your department to take appropriate action to enforce the law requiring a “WARN” notice. Time is of the essence.”

A WARN notice refers to the federal law, known as the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act or WARN Act, which offers protection to workers, their families and communities by requiring employers to provide notice 60 days in advance of plant closings, mass layoffs or the sale of a business.

Yager said Phillips confirmed that the hospital’s corporate office did not issue a WARN notice regarding the closing.

The Department of Labor and Workforce Development held three “Rapid Response” meetings on Monday to provide information and assistance to employees.

“These meetings were very helpful,” said Sen. Yager, who attended them with Pioneer employees. “I appreciate the department’s help for these employees and will stay with this issue to the best of my ability to insure Pioneer’s compliance with Tennessee law and regulations.”

Note: A Tennessean story on the hospital closing his HERE. The first paragraphs:

The only hospital in Scott County will close Sunday, about a month after it notified state officials it would likely shut down because of financial distress.

Pioneer Community Hospital of Scott in Oneida, Tenn., will close at 8 a.m. Sunday, according to a letter Thursday that was sent to the Division of Health Licensure and Regulation. Tony Taylor, CEO of the hospital, wrote that he learned about the closure on Wednesday in a call with Pioneer Corporation.

“Pioneer regrets this drastic yet necessary course of action but as it stands now Pioneer Health Services can no longer financially sustain operations,” Taylor wrote.