Union workers with SEIU District 1199 WV/KY/OH at Highlands Regional Medical Center voted June 29 to authorize the issuance of a strike notice.

According to a statement from the SEIU, the hospital’s workers "overwhelmingly" voted to authorize the union's bargaining committee that has been negotiating with hospital management to issue a possible strike notice, if it is deemed as needed. A candlelight vigil was also scheduled to take place on the front lawn of the Highlands ARH Regional Medical Center June 30, as workers will gather in peace to pray and express hope that an agreement can be reached through good faith negotiations.

According to the statement, last week, workers with the hospital applauded a settlement regarding a dispute concerning Medicaid reimbursement rates. As reported, the settlement will provide approximately $383 million to rural hospitals across Kentucky. Specifically, Highlands ARH Regional Medical Center is expected to receive approximately $5,028,667. The statement said that from the details available, checks could be issued to hospitals as soon as this week.

“As a worker who has been with Highlands ARH for over 20 years, I appreciate what this settlement means for our hospital in Prestonsburg and rural hospitals across Kentucky,” Krinda Bailey, an emergency room worker and union member leader said in the press release. “I urge hospital executives with ARH to invest this settlement in the workers at Highlands ARH who do everything they can on behalf of the people of our region.”

Negotiations with management at the hospital will continue on July 2. Workers with Highlands ARH Regional Medical Center continue to call on management to recognize their work in the recent pandemic and negotiate in good faith to reach a fair and equitable agreement, the statement said.

“We have to protect good union jobs, in addition to quality care at the hospital,"  Regional Director with SEIU District 1199 in Kentucky Joyce Gibson said in the press release. "Workers need fair wages so that they can provide for their families, especially during this time of crisis. In terms of the provision of care at the hospital, the workforce there is irreplaceable and nobody wants high turnover. A fair contract is important, not only for these workers and their families but the entire area.”

Attempts to reach officials with ARH on the issue were unsuccessful as of presstime June 30.

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