HGH Flight Nurse Becky Tissue voices concerns about the then uncertain HGH and MedX AirOne contract at the board of trustees meeting.
HGH Flight Nurse Becky Tissue voices concerns about the then uncertain HGH and MedX AirOne contract at the board of trustees meeting.
MedX AirOne, the northern Nevada air ambulance company has worked with Humboldt General Hospital to resolve contract concerns between the two organizations, meaning that the 14 full-time employees who work on the air ambulance will not have to choose between working for the hospital and working on the flight team for the hospital.

MedX AirOne President Joel Hochhalter said that since the Nov. 19 board meeting, Cole and the board have been integral in coming to a solution to concerns without making any changes to the way employees function between the two organizations. 

“Karen has done a really good job of getting everybody together and kind of presenting different ways to get things done so that folks aren’t affected at all with any kind of proposed change,” said Hochhalter. “We’ve worked through all of those and we’re not going to make any changes to the flight stuff or anything like that.” 

MedX AirOne, the northern Nevada air ambulance company had expected to transition the contract with Humboldt General Hospital (HGH) to provide its own employees to work on transporting flights rather than continue utilizing HGH paramedics, nurses and communication center staff. 

At the last board of trustees meeting, HGH Interim CEO Karen Cole said a total of 14 full-time employees were at risk to be impacted and that she had already explored opportunities for those employees at HGH if they wanted to continue their employment with the hospital. 

HGH Trustee Bill Hammargren said that Hochhalter had also expressed interest in hiring employees who currently work on the aircraft at HGH and wanted to continue working on the flight team. 

At last Tuesday’s hospital board meeting, trustees voted unanimously for Cole to discuss the contract with Hochhalter to see what options are available for a continued partnership between HGH and MedX AirOne. 

Hammargren and Cole said that HGH had recently received a 90-day notice letter that starting in February, MedX AirOne would be providing its own employees for the flight operation at HGH. 

Employees and board members expressed concern with the unexpected announcement, not with concern of losing their job, but with the possibility of losing the benefit of being able to work in such a unique position.  

Trustee Michelle Miller said that she had not heard about the news prior to the board meeting and that she wanted to sit down with Cole and be clear about the ramifications the negotiation could have for both the employees and HGH as an organization before moving forward. 

One employee who works on the flight crew at HGH for AirOne said she drives 400 miles per week to work at HGH because of the unique contract between the two organizations. She said that without being an HGH employee working on the flight team, she wouldn’t be able to help with hospital patient care needs prior to flight and that this was an integral part as to why she accepted a pay cut and travels so far to work for HGH on the flight team.

Another employee who spoke during public comment said that once the flight program makes the transition to bringing in its own employees, she will no longer be able to work on the helicopter and will be limited to hospital functions.

“We’re going to lose some amazing nurses and medics on flight because of PERS (Public Employee Retirement System at HGH), we have people close to the retirement system in PERS. It will bring a huge change, I wish it could continue to be a hospital-based program,” said HGH nurse Hannah Kohler. 

Another employee expressed concerns for the employees at HGH as well as for the citizens of Humboldt County with the  then uncertain future. 

Hammargren explained that the contract between HGH and MedX AirOne has been unique since its inception in 2015 and that HGH has always provided the paramedic, nurse and communication center staff for the flight program and the helicopter and pilot were provided by MedX. He said that the financial details and logistics have been visited several times since the inception of the partnership to determine the best solution for all parties. 

At the board meeting, Hammargren said that he was told by Hochhalter that the plan is to continue to have a helicopter at HGH. Hammargren said the change was requested for the additional oversight MedX AirOne would like to provide in its program. 

“The agreement that we’re talking about is the same as the Elko Hospital and Ely hospital has made with MedX, that they provide the helicopter, they provide the staffing to run the helicopter and hopefully all those things would be the same,” said Hammargren. “We’ve received assurances from Joel that he will do his best to offer contracts to anyone that wants to stay with the helicopter and we’ll do our best to accommodate people staying with the hospital that want to be here”

Hochhalter said that after working with Cole and the board, the changes will only be within the structure of the working relationship within scheduling and workloads rather than altering the company employees who work on the flight crew are employed by.