Whidbey General workers upset as jobs outsourced | Corrected

Ten employees at Whidbey General Hospital are being outsourced this fall in a move that’s estimated to save $1.5 million over five years.

The hospital’s transcriptionists were surprised when they thought they were attending their monthly department meeting Aug. 30 and instead were greeted by a team of top hospital officials. They were told that a national medical transcription company, Wedmedx, was taking over transcription for the hospital.

Trish Rose, hospital spokesperson, explained that all the employees were given unconditional job offers to continue working as transcriptionists for the company, as well as 60 days to continue in their current jobs. She explained that technology has brought big changes to the medical transcription field and that the vast majority of hospitals now outsource the service. Skagit and Providence hospitals made the move over a year ago, she said.

“It was a very hard decision to make, and we went to great lengths to ensure that we contracted with a quality organization that is considered the best in their field,” Rose said, adding that hospital officials insisted on going with a company that only uses transcriptionists within the United States.

Rose described Wedmedx as “the premier national provider of medical documentation solutions and services with all operations based in the United States.” They will provide 24-hour coverage for medical documentation services to the hospital.

In addition, Rose pointed out that many doctors no longer use audio recordings but a voice-recognition software program that does the transcription for them. She said the new technology was a driving factor in the hospital’s decision to outsource.

Nevertheless, some of the transcriptionists were very upset at the change, though most refused to allow the News-Times to use their names for fear of retribution from hospital officials or the company.

Linda Quistorf has been a transcriptionist at the hospital for 40 years, which she said makes her the longest term employee there. She said she refuses to work for what she deems as extremely low pay, especially for someone with so much experience.

Under the contract offered the employees, Webmedx will pay them 8 cents per line. Quistorf claims that would translate to less than $9 an hour with benefits that are inferior to what she receives through the hospital.

The transcriptionists’ job is to type audio dictations made by doctors. It’s undeniably a tough job. They have to be able to type very quickly and understand a jungle of complicated medical terms.

The transcriptionists who join the new company will have to work from home, which may be difficult if not impossible for those who live in areas of the island that don’t have reliable Internet service.

In addition, some transcriptionists were upset that the didn’t get a severance package, though Rose said the unconditional job offer was considered a severance package.

Rose pointed out that Webmedx was voted “Employer of the Year” by medical transcriptionists of the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity organization in 2006, 2008 and 2010; yet an employee pointed out that Webmedx is merging with another company and things may change.

Some employees felt that hospital officials didn’t follow the organization’s own current standards of behavior when springing the news on employees during the difficult meeting.

“I am feeling both hurt and angry,” Quistorf wrote in an email message. “Is this what you get after 40 years, a day where they drop a bomb like this on you? I have always worked as hard if not harder than the day I started. Whidbey General Hospital should be ashamed of themselves for the way that they went about this.”


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