A smart course-correction at AVH | AspenTimes.com

A smart course-correction at AVH

Aspen Valley Hospital won back some public credibility this week by awarding laid-off workers an appropriate amount of severance pay.The hospital was caught between a fiscal rock and a public-relations hard place on this one, but the board and the interim management seem to have found a way out of the bind.It’s no secret that the board is trying to dig itself out of a deep financial hole, a process that led to the April termination of 34 employees. Fortunately, admirable progress has been made in recent months on the hospital’s faulty billing and collection practices, which had created a $7.5 million shortfall.In its zeal this spring to balance the budget, however, the hospital board made what we believe was a misstep: To revise the policy granting laid-off employees sizable severance packages based on the number of years of service. In some cases, employees who were due several months of pay were left with just two weeks’ severance as a result of the policy change. The fact that the revision occurred just a few weeks before the layoffs were announced made hospital management appear coldhearted.The policy change no doubt would have saved a bundle of money, but it would have been at great cost to the hospital’s reputation.Community hospitals (and other public institutions, for that matter) shouldn’t treat their people that way. Even under dire circumstances, an organization like Aspen Valley Hospital should honor commitments to its people.That’s why it felt so good to learn this week that hospital officials had changed their minds and awarded larger severance packages to the unfortunates who were laid off (the amounts vary, depending on the category of employee). The $34,000 to be doled out will help the individuals involved, and pay huge dividends to AVH in the form of good will from the public.Locals want to see their hospital back on its feet financially, of course, but they also expect it to treat employees fairly and uphold the highest standards of integrity. The decision to award the severance packages was an appropriate course-correction.

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