Friday, December 11, 2015
A Hollow Victory For AFSCME at Gracedale
Heather Kincaid and Joan Webb, 19-year veterans of the County, are occupational therapist assistants at Gracedale. They help patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working.
In July, NorCo Council inked a $2.9 million deal with Advantage care to provide rehabilitation care at Gracedale. Medicare and medicaid fully fund this contract. Advantage Care agreed to provide 13 physical therapists and even agreed to pay the salary for three assistants employed by the County, including Kincaid and Webb.
But no more. "I'm one of three people who found out two days ago that my life was basically torn out from under me," Kincaid told a Council preparing to celebrate Christmas. She is the sole breadwinner in her family, which includes a disabled husband who relies on her medical plan and is scheduled for a surgical procedure on December 14.
"We were told we're OK. we're OK, we're safe," she told Council. Her life insurance and medical benefits will be gone as of the first of the year. "I'll be honest with you, I'm terrified," she said, beating back tears. Kincaid and Webb were told to get a job with Advantage Care, which provides no family medical care or sick time or job security.
Kincaid and Webb have tried to contact Executive John Brown and Deputy Administrator Cathy Allen, to no avail. They told Council they just want to finish out their 20 years as county employees.
They also pointed out that residents can see as many as three different therapists in a given week, while they provide consistency and a familiar face.
Gracedale has used four different rehabilitation companies during the time Kincaid and Webb have worked there. "The only thing that remained consistent was us," noted Kincaid.
"We're just very flabbergasted at how three individuals in the large scheme of things who do not cost very much, but generate income, could just be discarded so heartlessly."
"After working at Gracedale for 20 years, we built a rapport with so many residents, added Webb, standing by Kincaid's side.Everyone that works there and the residents are just sick about this."
"I'm not just asking ... I'm begging that you reconsider this and allow us to remain through the end of our time," closed Kincaid.
As Kincaid and Webb described their plight, about eight of their fellow union members sat on the other side of the room, including union President Hector Rivera.Rivera later explained that the union fought for Kincaid and Webb, but the County insisted they be privatized. Noting that union members voted to support the contract by a 207-34 margin, Rivera stated he "cannot sabotage a contract for something they voted for."
Union members made no pitch for Kincaid or Webb.
After the meeting, Cathy Allen stated she would arrange a meeting between these workers and John Brown. Bob Werner and Peg Ferraro said they'd like to attend.
In other business, Council discussed a possibly joint meeting with Lehigh County Commissioners to discuss changes in the articles of incorporation at the Airport Authority. Glenn Geissinger, Council's representative on the Authority, was absent so Council had no direction about what is being sought. Geissigner also missed the final budget hearing last week. Even his vote concerning the Budget was done by phone.
Geissinger is running for the 17th Pa. Congressional District currently being served by Matt Cartright..
This was also the final meeting on Council for Lamont McClure and Scott Parsons.
McClure spoke of serving with legends like Wayne Grube and Peg Ferraro. He claimed that Grube taught him.that Gracedale is a "moral obligation. He also spoke of Ron Angle. "We both worked very hard to get rid of each other," he joked.
Parsons, who offered no parting words, left with the model workhorse awarded to him for his near perfect attendance record at Council meetings and committees.