After the News Tribune reported last week that SMDC’s largest union wanted to return to the negotiating table while a company spokesperson said they hadn’t been asked, a phone call was made.
As a result, talks resumed today.
It was that story that triggered the call, says SMDC spokeswoman Beth Johnson.
“We called the mediator we had been working with, and there was a mediation session arranged for today,” Johnson says.
Talks had broken down between SMDC and United Steelworkers Local 9460. Earlier this month, union members rejected a contract offer that would have frozen wages for at least a year and allowed the company to outsource about 25 jobs. The union represents about 1,400 support staff, including office workers, food service cooks and clinic LPNs. Their contract expired in June.
The union notified the company last week that it would conduct an informational picket at various SMDC clinic and hospital sites this coming Monday. That was before the two sides agreed to return to the bargaining table. Apparently to keep the pressure on as the two sides negotiate, the union is planning a second informational picket and handbilling on Feb. 1.
The St. Mary’s Duluth Clinic has earned a second accreditation for its weight management program, according to a news release from the health care operation.
The program, which includes a weight loss surgery on a person’s midsection, was accredited by the Bariatric Surgery Center Network of the American College of Surgeons. Last year, the program was accredited as a Center of Excellence by the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.
“We’re honored that our growing program has earned accreditation from two professional organizations with high standards for surgical outcomes and comprehensive patient care,’’ Tracy Pitt a SMDC bariatric surgeon said in a prepared statement. “The main focus of our team is comprehensive care for our patients, before, during and after surgery.”
The accolades come after an on-site visit from the American College of Surgeons to appraise the center.
St. Mary’s Home Health, a Duluth-based provider of in-home nursing and therapy, informed staff this week that it will discontinue operations by June 30 of this year. The service employs the equivalent of 15 full-time staff members.
“Over the next two to three months, we will be looking to provide services and help patients transition to other home-care service providers,” said Kim Kaiser, a spokeswoman for SMDC Health System, the parent company of St. Mary’s Home Health Care.
The home health service currently has about 100 patients, and Kaiser said letters informing them of SMDC’s decision to exit the business will be sent out shortly.
Kaiser remains confident patients will continue to receive needed services. “We’re fortunate to have several other high-quality home care providers in the area,” she said.
Simple economics led SMDC to close down St. Mary’s Home Health Care, according to Kaiser.
“We were unable to create a sustainable model,” she said. “Unfortunately, the reimbursements we receive fall below our costs of operating the program.”