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Nursing staff leave electrophysiology department amid transition

Butler Memorial Hospital Tower entrance on Friday March 9, 2018.(Justin Guido photo)

Independence Health System’s electrophysiology department is transitioning to a private practice, according to Karen Allen, president of Butler and Clarion Hospitals.

The transition of the electrophysiology department, which comes at a time of significant financial losses for Independence Health System, impacts four registered nurses at Butler Memorial Hospital, who have since accepted positions with other companies.

Financial reports released Nov. 28 by Independence Health System show a combined operating loss of over $22.6 million for the merged Butler Health System and Excela Health between July 1 and Sept. 30.

Richard Levandoski was one of the registered nurses whose jobs were affected. After months of uncertainty, he and his colleagues were made aware in the last week of their positions being terminated, he said Tuesday, Dec. 5.

Levandoski said the electrophysiology department has a team of heart rhythm specialists that work with such devices as pacemakers and defibrillators.

He said that in early October, upper management said the department would be transferred to Optimize EP, a digital health company based in West Virginia.

Levandoski said he and his colleagues were told the contract with Optimize EP would be effective Jan. 1 and the doctors would be changing, but their jobs would not be affected. There was no definitive date given to registered nurses stating when they would be made redundant or if their positions were being terminated, Levandoski said. Instead, he was told there would be a “transition period,” which he said lulled him and his colleagues into a “false sense of security.”

Levandoski said he had asked his supervisors several times since October what the transition would mean for his position.

“Just this week, after I asked multiple times, I was told (after) 12/29, do not come back in,” Levandoski said.

With the loss of his current position, and lack of communication from the health system, Levandoski said he felt he and his colleagues were “hung out to dry.”

Allen said there were no layoffs, and the four nurses were offered alternative positions within the system. They were notified through normal human resources protocols, she said.

“The department is transitioning from a wholly owned and employed practice to a privately held private practice,” Allen said in an email to the Eagle on Tuesday. “There are no layoffs.”

Levandoski said he and his colleagues were encouraged to apply for other jobs within the health system, but the organization did not offer comparable jobs.

In email correspondence with executive director for cardiovascular services Heidi Drennen, Levandoski stated the jobs posted online would require working on weekends, holidays and non-daylight hours.

As a husband and father to two small children, Levandoski said he presently works daylight hours. Another registered nurse in the department is a single mother to two children, he said.

“I didn’t want to apply for other jobs because it was not made clear to me that ‘You are definitely losing your job,’” Levandoski said.

He said his colleagues applied for multiple jobs within the health system with no success. He and his colleagues are non-union workers.

About a month ago, Levandoski said he received a phone call from Optimize EP offering a job in the same department under a new doctor and Optimize EP founder Dr. Maninder Bedi.

At the moment, Levandoski makes $43.49 an hour. The new position, which had a different job description and slashed benefits, would pay $36 an hour, he said.

“Not only was it a pay cut, but it was worse benefits,” he said. “And they thought that was a fair compromise.”

He said he chose not to pursue the job offer, which was not made in writing.

As he waits for his six years with Independence Health System to come to an end, Levandoski said he has 185 hours of accrued sick time which amounts to about $8,000 that he will not be compensated for.

“In accordance with hospital policy, sick time is not paid out upon separation,” Allen said in the email.

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