The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

September 16, 2013

Orchard Manor denies anti-union claims

By HOWARD BALABAN howard.balaban@journal-register.com
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — An Orchard Manor spokesperson says claims made by some attempting to form a union at the nursing home are “outrageous.”

Aaron Lichtman, the spokesperson for Orchard Manor, said, “My understanding is that initially there were some employees who said they wanted a union, and obviously a union spokesperson is working very hard to get a union.” 

Given the pro-union vs. anti-union happenings going on in recent weeks, Lichtman said if things were as bad as described, complaints would have been filed. He labeled the pro-union people part of “a propaganda machine … that’s undeniable.”

Having a union at Orchard Manor is something ownership “is not ideologically opposed to,” Lichtman said. “In fact, I think Orchard Manor is quite aware that unions and ownership can work together very effectively to provide high quality care.”

The tactics used to get a union, however, Lichtman took to task. “A union shouldn’t run a propaganda campaign and threaten employees. All ownership would like to see is that people who work at the facility are able to make their decision based upon whatever is important to them.”

While the pro-union workers have alleged Orchard Manor has used so-called “union busters” to intimidate them, Lichtman said the facility has instead used “people who are there to help facilitate and ensure that the voting process is a fair one. My understanding is that they are former or current union organizers, and their experience is from the union side.”

With a vote on whether to join the CSEA employees union set for Thursday, Lichtman was asked why, after years without a union, would employees feel the need under new ownership to join one.

“I can’t speak to why an employee would or would not want a union,” he said, but added, “Thus far, it appears as if not everybody at the facility shares the same view on unions, but the vast majority share the view that patient care is paramount.”

He added that having a union could protect employees who may not deserve protection. “You cannot be somebody who is not providing quality care and run to somebody,” he said. “Good unions believe that.”

With several pro-union employees either suspended or terminated in recent weeks, Lichtman said any employment decisions are based “on job performance.”

Additionally, he stated that the employer would prefer to reward employees who provide the best care and fill vacancies that ensure that “the residents come first.”

He noted that the decisions — including those regarding the home’s administrator, nursing director, and other key staff — are “always made based upon the perceived needs of the residents.”

Some employees last week spoke to how the needs of the employees, such as new equipment, replenished supplies, and extra workers, were not being met.

Lichtman responded, “Ownership has invested tremendous resources at the facility. For example, they’ve essentially revamped the entire way patient care is delivered.”

Orchard Manors’s health care has transitioned from a paper-based to electronic-based records system, Lichtman explained. “There are electronic kiosks in residents’ rooms, and that takes a lot of burden off the nursing staff to fill out paper work, and it improves the paperwork and compliance because it’s real time,” he said.

Lichtman noted that the kiosks — some of which are still being installed — include the programs Care Tracker and Point Click Care to create more efficiency for the staff that provides patient care. He said Orchard Manor has added a “new level” to the facility that did not exist before. The new level he spoke of includes the program Medquis, which he said “tracks a range of care of functions, and requires conversations to occur with staff and families to track quality of care issues. That was never done before.”

Regarding the departure of long-time employees and affiliates, Lichtman said the facility has brought on “critical consultants in both nursing and rehab support … so there’s the benefit of senior people coming in to assist the facility and staff in excellence in nursing and rehab services.”

Since the change in ownership, a handful of long-time medical employees have left Orchard Manor, voluntarily or otherwise. When asked about one affiliated doctor who no longer sees patients at the facility, Lichtman stated, “The politics of which HMO a doctor is affiliated with is not our concern. Our concern is patient care.”

The doctor, who wished to remain anonymous, said his concern is also patient care and that is what led to his departure. He said he had noticed a decline and deficiency in quality of patient care issues. He said it would be completely incorrect to suggest that financial reasons played a role in his departure.

Lichtman said the facility is indeed “revenue driven.” He stated, “Unless people want to come to the facility, this provider is not going to be profitable.

“The model is to provide the best care, hope that the care is recognized, and hope people make this facility their first choice,” he said.

Lichtman said patient numbers have increased under new ownership, along with the services provided. Specifically, he said employees have been added in the rehab department.

“Orchard Manor wants to be the go-to facility for the region, and we may need to keep investing in it for 10 years because unless it becomes a premier facility in the region it will never be profitable,” Lichtman said.