The courtroom of the Russell County Courthouse was packed Thursday night with employees of Russell County Hospital and their families as possible changes to employee paid-time-off and sick day policies were set to be discussed.
The board ultimately took no action on the issue, as it was revealed that a group of employees and CEO Patrick Branco agreed to put a pause on any such changes to employee PTO/sick days for a year.
But the board heard from two hospital employees who spoke on behalf of many RCH employees at the meeting. Dana Gaskin and Emily Ragle spoke on behalf of the employees, expressing their love for the hospital and their commitment to the hospital’s mission of providing the best care possible, but said cutting employees’ benefits, like had been proposed with the PTO/sick days, felt like “a punch in the gut.”
Gaskin and Ragle said employee morale at the hospital is low, and a lot can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. Caring for COVID patients, regular exposure to the virus, changing protocols, and much more is taxing mentally on the employees, they said.
One by one, the board of directors members expressed their appreciation and gratitude to the employees in their room for the work they’ve done and continue to do while also noting that the board has to do what is in the best fiscal interest of the hospital. Board member Winfrey Bates said she hopes the board and the employees can meet in the middle somewhere on the issue.
Branco said a committee consisting of department heads, employees, and others would begin meeting soon to work toward a resolution to the issue.
Branco spoke to WJRS News after the meeting and said he and the administrators of the hospital are going to continue to take a deeper look into the employee benefits to analyze what the next steps should be, but no changes are expected this year.