Friday, August 30, 2013

Questions and Concerns at Pacific Hospital - Part 3

         In my previous blog regarding this subject, I mentioned that I wish I had the facts (Questions and Concerns at Pacific Hospital - Part 2). Well we received some information on Thursday, August 29th about what was going to happen to the hospital and our jobs. It was finally confirmed that Pacific Hospital of Long Beach was sold to College Health Enterprises who owns College Hospital. They will be in partnership with Molina Healthcare who will be managing the medical units while College Health will be doing the same with the psych units. I believe Pacific Hospital had a similar arrangement with Molina a few years back. As far as our jobs are concerned, all employees will be terminated and the expected layoff date is October 29th. We will be asked to reapply with College Health Enterprises effective September 9th when they take over. As required by law, we were given a notice informing us of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which we had to sign. A memo from the current owner of Pacific Hospital mentioned that employees rehired by College/Molina will continue benefits and retain any accrued PTO (vacation time). At least the part about the PTO is a relief. In case of a layoff, there is no mention of severance pay.
          With all that information, more questions and concerns arise but basically similar to what I wrote in Part 2. There is no guarantee of being rehired but at least it gives as a couple of months of leeway to find another job. Believe me, I've already started looking but what I've seen so far as being offered in area hospitals are per diem (no benefits) positions. Questions include - will the shifts go back to 8 hours or continue with 12 hours; if rehired and basically starting from scratch, will the pay scale be lower; since Memorial Counseling Associates will no longer be managing the psych unit, will there be a change in doctors; will it be better to gamble and resign so I can cash in my PTO then reapply with the new company, or wait to be laid off? Being laid off, though not good, is better than resigning because at least you can collect unemployment insurance, which is not much, but better than nothing. If rehired by the new company though, at least medical and dental insurance benefits will continue even if there is a decrease in pay. What about our 401k retirement plan? Will it roll over to College Hospital's investment company, or will it be up to us to keep it in the same place or transfer it to our own investment company? In an ideal world, if some of us get laid off, it would have been nice to get some severance pay in addition to the PTO being cashed out. Or if rehired, it would be good if they just pay off the Pacific Hospital PTO and start from zero with whatever vacation benefits that College Health has. I can dream, can't I?

Disclosure: I worked at College Hospital Cerritos twice - once in 1981(when their area code was still 213) which was my first ever psychiatric hospital job, a few months after moving to the United States, and the second time in the mid-90's. I have also experienced a couple of lay offs. The first with Los Altos Hospital and the second with Lakewood Regional Medical Center, both which gave employees several weeks worth of severance pay. And finally, Barry Weiss, who is the owner of College Health Enterprises is the brother of my colonoscopy doctor - Steven Weiss.

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Questions and Concerns at Pacific Hospital - Part 2

          After writing about my questions and concerns a few months ago (Questions and Concerns at Pacific Hospital) following the FBI and IRS raid at my place of work, it has been quiet until recently. The employees have always known that the hospital was looking for a buyer as well as a new management company for the psychiatric units, and it may be possible that the buyer might manage those psych units as well.
          Unverified rumors have been abounding in recent days about Pacific Hospital already being sold and that an announcement will be made in early September. As to who the buyer is, rumor has it (pardon me Adele), it is College Hospital, who owns College Hospital in Cerritos and Costa Mesa. That company has done several tours of Pacific Hospital in recent months so they definitely showed an interest. Some employees have mentioned (again unverified) that when Pacific Hospital hands over the operation to College Hospital, the employees will be asked to sign some papers ending their (our) employment with Pacific and start anew with College, essentially from scratch. The speculation includes forfeiting our accrued vacation time or PTO and a possible decrease in hourly salary, plus elimination of shift differential for the night shift. With a little search on the internet regarding California Labor Law, unused vacation time will have to be paid by the employer upon termination of employment, so it's illegal to forfeit it. Doesn't a change of ownership constitute a termination? Getting paid my vacation time is a great concern for me because I have a lot of hours accrued which I had intended to use for emergencies. This is the section of the Labor Law which covers vacation time: which specifically states:
What happens to my earned and accrued but unused vacation if I am discharged or quit my job?
Under California law, unless otherwise stipulated by a collective bargaining agreement, whenever the employment relationship ends, for any reason whatsoever, and the employee has not used all of his or her earned and accrued vacation, the employer must pay the employee at his or her final rate of pay for all of his or her earned and accrued and unused vacation days. Labor Code Section 227.3. Because paid vacation benefits are considered wages, such pay must be included in the employee's final paycheck.
          There are a couple of scenarios that have run through my mind. One is to wait for the announcement and just go with the flow and be rehired by the new company with the possible loss of vacation time (if their lawyers found some kind of loophole). The other is to resign as soon as possible so the accrued vacation time can be cashed out before the new company takes over, then after a few weeks, reapply for the same job for lower pay. Of course being rehired is not a sure thing, so that's another concern. Like I mentioned before, there are not too many jobs available in the psychiatric hospital business nowadays. If I quit and cash out my vacation time, I may be able to get by on it for 2 to 3 months, but also have to sign up for COBRA insurance so I continue to be covered by medical insurance, that is, until Obamacare takes over in 2014 (in case I get unemployed for the long term). For now, it's all up in the air because the employees have been kept in the dark and have been left with rumors and speculation. Meanwhile, time is running out. I wish I had the facts.
A couple of days after I posted this entry, the facts were revealed to the employees: Questions and Concerns at Pacific Hospital - Part 3

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Running Shirts Disposal

          Well I finally did it. After putting it off for several weeks, I found the time to check the accumulated junk in my garage storage cabinets, and sort out what I can live with or without. Most of the things I found I could live without, otherwise I wouldn't have kept them in the garage in the first place.
          These were the things that I found: a pair of speaker stands which I used years ago before my living room got filled up with exercise equipment and I had a 500 watt amplifier; a rarely used pair of inline skates because I had poor balance and did more falling than skating; lots of towels and blankets left behind by a female friend 2 decades ago; bedsheets that I thought I had thrown away; and finally, about 80 to 100 cotton and or polyester race t-shirts from the 80's and early 90's, back when I was participating in races almost every weekend.
          First I found a bag of shirts which I took a picture of on the hood of my car. As I digged deeper into the cabinet, I found two more bags filled with shirts. Years ago, I thought about having those shirts made into a quilt but after checking out companies that did this, I found out it was too expensive. That's the reason why all those shirts ended up in storage. Could I live without the remnants of my running and racing past? I hesitated a bit, but since they have been out of sight and out of mind for years, I decided to finally dispose of them. I'll have deal with disposer's remorse later if and when it comes. The evidence of the countless 5k's, 10k's, 10 milers, half marathons, and marathons, soon would be gone.

          Among the other things that I disposed of that day were old computer parts, the inline skates which were kept in a backpack, a cycling/skating helmet, the speaker stands, blankets, and several towels. As for the 3 bags of race t-shirts, instead of putting them inside the dumpster, I set them on the outside, perchance someone might want them.
          One of the things I kept was the Razor type scooter, in case I need it for emergency transportation in the future. I was also able to reuse the old full size sheets for the new coil spring futon mattress I mentioned in a previous blog.
          Minutes after I left the three bags of shirts outside the dumpster, someone had already picked them up when I wasn't looking. The shirts have taken on a second life. I wish I could say that parting with them was such sweet sorrow but with me, the shirts will have no morrow.

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Searching For a New ISP

          My annual contract with Charter Internet is expiring in a couple of weeks so I started shopping around for a new ISP the last two months. One would think that broadband service would get cheaper as time goes on but the reverse is true, I guess because the demand is high since having an internet connection is now a necessity. Renewing with Charter would have cost $44.95 a month and that would have been too much. Verizon no longer offers a dry loop service and requires you to have telephone service bundled with internet service. The bundle would have cost more than $50 so that was also out of the question. I haven't used a regular phone line for more than two years since I've been using Magicjack for domestic and international long distance calls, and a cellphone of course. Dry loop just means you can have internet via the telephone company's wires without phone service. I looked into Clear 4G which required you to buy their modem for $50, then the monthly fee is $34.95, which is not so bad except the download speed is only 1 megabit per second. Finally, after all that search, I found which offered dry loop service using Verizon's existing phone lines. Despite some negative reviews about their service, I decided to risk it.
          I ordered it online then waited for DSLextreme to notify me when Verizon had activated the line. Less than a week later, I received the notification. I plugged in my old Verizon modem, powered it up then waited for the the following lights to turn on: power, DSL, ethernet, and internet. Ok, three of them did: power, ethernet, and DSL. Perhaps the signal hasn't reached my home yet so I waited till the next day just to make sure before contacting DSL Extreme. Well at least I know my old modem still works.

          The next day, I emailed the company about the missing internet signal and they gave me a number to call and to ask for Level 2. Just as I was about to call, a technician named Pat called me at home to help set up the modem. I'll spare you the technical details which involved numbers like: and (the IP address of the modem and wireless router). Well, Pat and I worked on attempting to establish an internet connection for two hours without success, and had to stop only because I had to get ready for work in the evening. This was getting too complicated. I expected myself to plug in the modem and the telephone line and get the connection right away like it was when I had Verizon DSL.
          I called tech support again the next day and the first person that answered sounded like someone from a call center in the Philippines. I guess that was Level 1, so I gave my ticket number and asked for Level 2. I was connected to Travis in Woodland Hills, the same place where Pat was. We went through the same process as the previous day but couldn't access the same menus. I mentioned that I did a hard reset of the modem a few hours before and that probably messed it up for whatever information tech support already had on my modem. A hard reset restores the device to factory settings. After a few more tests, Travis found a way (by luck, chance, or skill, I don't know), to finally make the internet light on the modem to work. That could only mean one thing: I finally have internet service from DSL Extreme! And this time it only took about 35 minutes of troubleshooting. Before we hanged up, Travis reminded me not to do another hard reset.
          After making sure that everything was finally in working order, I sent an email to the tech support supervisor to commend and compliment Travis and Pat for their patience and courtesy in helping solve the problem.
          Two days later, the internet connection continues to work without any problems, although the speed is only 1/10th of what I used to have with Charter (3 mbps as opposed to 30 mbps). But as long as I can do whatever I used to do online, I can live with the slower speed. Not that I have much of a choice. Either pay more or live within my means just to stay connected to this thing called the INTERNET.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Full Stride Moments

Recycled Pic From Several Weeks Ago

          This one is more than a week late because I didn't feel like writing anything due to health concerns going on with my family (Larry's Transplant and What Happened Next).
          Well, last week I was with the Long Beach Area Walking Club again at Signal Hill, a couple of weeks after I did the solo time trial (Signal Hill Time Trial Walk). This time I did my usual going ahead then coming back with the pack with no particular plan in mind. I ran short distances when I wanted to and walked to recover. There was more walking than running that day. I didn't even swing my arms vigorously during the recovery phases, and as I'll tell you later, that made a difference. For some reason, there were more Signal Hill police cars patrolling than usual. I also saw new sign in one of the trails saying the path was restricted due to people throwing rocks at the houses below. One of the other walkers also told me that boot camps were now banned so I didn't see any that day. There used to be at least 2 or 3 in the past that I've seen on Saturday mornings. I don't remember if I mentioned this before, but Signal Hill has a couple of radio antennas at it's peak and every time I approach the antennas, my FM radio would lose it's signal and all I get is white noise.
          Running nowadays consists of very short distances using very short steps which keeps the pain in my thighs from the statin myopathy under control. But last week, I saw some young whippersnappers running who looked like members of a high school cross country team, so I couldn't resist running with a full stride though still covering short distances, which felt really good. During those brief attempts at running hard, I was also running happy. All that walking and running back and forth enabled me to cover 8.5 miles in the time it took the rest of the group to cover 6 miles. Oh but those short and sweet full stride moments took their toll on my legs. My legs felt so tired and battered after those 8.5 miles and those full stride moments made for much longer recovery moments. It's been more than a week and I could still feel the soreness in my hips. At least the soreness didn't turn to pain.
          These past few weeks, I've been tracking my pace and I'm mystified by the inconsistencies. Let me bore you with the numbers. Last Saturday while walking and running, the average pace over 8.5 miles was 13:02. On those same hills, I covered 7 miles at 13:34 pace of plain walking during my time trial. Hmm, not much difference, right? A few weeks before that on flat terrain, my walking pace was 13:05 for 6 miles. Then there was that 11:25 pace walk/run on flat terrain for 9 miles with AREC, which was a whole lot better than the 11:32 pace I did during a 4 minute jog with 1 minute recovery walk I did a week and a half ago for 4 miles. So will I be correct to conclude that it is better to do random run/walks instead of timed intervals because I'm able to cover distances faster that way? To add to that, there is not much gain in pace while doing a run/walk up and down hills as compared to walking as fast as possible, although the running part stimulates the brain better. I find that faster arm swings make for faster walking. Well, no use being so anal retentive about it. I'll just walk or run as I feel no matter the pace.