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245 workers laid off at nursing home where 12 people died in the heat

South Florida Sun Sentinel - 10/6/2017

Oct. 06--The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, which is under investigation by the state and Broward County over the deaths of up to a dozen patients since Hurricane Irma, has laid off 245 workers after regulators ordered a moratorium on future admissions at the facility.

On orders from Gov. Rick Scott, the state Agency for Health Care Administration ordered the moratorium on Sept. 13. The nursing home notified the Department of Economic Opportunity of the layoffs on Sept. 20.

"This is to advise you that on Sept. 20...The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills has permanently closed...A 60-day notice could not be provided due to unforeseen business circumstances that occurred after the impact of Hurricane Irma that led to the immediate suspension of the facility's license and participation in the Medicaid program," writes Carolina Pena, human resources director.

Layoffs included 79 certified nursing assistants, 37 licensed practical nurses, 23 occupational or physical therapists, 18 registered nurses, 25 environmental or laundry workers, 10 administrative assistants, five doctors, and others who worked in activities, dietary aid, engineering and supplies.

Hollywood Hills rehabilitation center was evacuated of all its patients after Hurricane Irma knocked out the power at the center, which didn't have a generator. Twelve patients who resided at the center have since died.

The notice to the state was provided under the Worker Adjustment and Restraining Notification Act of 1988, which is designed to protect workers and their families by requiring employers to provide notice 60 days in advance of a plant closing or mass layoffs.

The layoffs at the nursing home were among more than 900 job cuts in September by Florida employers.

According to the outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas, Florida companies trimmed 33 percent fewer jobs during the month than in 2016. Employers cut 929 jobs during the month compared with 1,391 jobs in September 2016, the firm said.

Nationwide, job cuts were 32,346, down 26 percent from a year ago, Challenger said. The industry with the biggest employment changes is retail, which led the job cuts in September but also led in hiring announcements.

So far this year, employers in the U.S. have announced 321,478 job cuts, 26.2 percent lower than the 435,612 cuts recorded through September last year.

"Job cuts have remained low since the second half of last year," said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger. He said companies are "holding on to their existing workforces while many positions requiring skilled labor go unfilled" as they grapple with potential deregulation and changes to health care costs in a tight labor market.

A recent survey of Florida employers by PNC Bank shows that nearly one third of respondents said it's harder to hire qualified employees than it was six months to a year ago. Employers said the biggest challenge was "inadequate skills and experience," followed by a lack of applicants and job candidates requiring higher pay than the business owner could afford.

The retail industry led in announced job cuts, with 71,057 so far this year, 3,461 of which occurred in September. This is a 36.8 percent increase from the previous year, when 51,939 cuts were recorded, Challenger said.

Through September, retailers also said they planned to add over 500,000 new jobs, both seasonal and permanent. Nationwide, Target has announced it plans to hire 100,000 seasonal workers for the Christmas holidays, Macy's has said it will hire 80,000 seasonal workers; and J.C. Penney, 40,000 seasonal workers, Challenger said. or 561-243-6650, twitter: @marciabiz


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