300 workers fired from local healthcare industries

KINGSPORT - An ongoing financial review of Wellmont Health System has found "erroneous" accounting entries from 2006 to 2008 but none that involved theft, personal gain or government contracts. To quote the press, "During the extensive review which included interviews with dozens of past and present Wellmont employees and review of several hundred accounting entries, neither Wellmont nor its independent legal counsel found any evidence of theft or personal gain associated with the erroneous entries Furthermore, the erroneous entries did not involve any payments received or owing to government contracts or payors, and they do not present any regulatory issues for Wellmont."

But the audits also found a "significant decline in liquidity, with days cash on hand dropping approximately 48 percent since June 2007; operating losses through the first five months of fiscal 2009; and the departures of the CEO and CFO." Wellmont and its chief competitor, Johnson City-based Mountain States Health Alliance, Jan. 16 (2009) announced a series of cost-cutting measures because of the downturn in the economy.

MSHA announced the elimination of 109 positions, representing 1.4 percent of its work force of 7,863 people. For Wellmont, changes included elimination of 86 jobs and a reduction in corporate and administrative expenses at Wellmont. Another 60 positions that are now vacant will not be filled. The 86 jobs are just more than 1 percent of Wellmont's work force of 6,900 people in the region. And a new patient tower at Holston Valley Medical Center, part of the $100 million Project Platinum renovation, has been delayed. Ref. Kingsport Times-News January 28, 2009.

The report didn't include the closing of the Wellmont Fitness Center on State Street in Bristol. All together we are losing almost 300 jobs in an industry (one of the few outside government in the region) that has grown for years. What's next?

Tri-Cities Labor Market Report East Tennessee State University - Third Quarter 2014

Employment levels still falling since 2009.

Existing labor market trends dominated the Tri-Cities Consolidated Statistical Area (CSA) in the third quarter. Compared to the same period in 2013, regional employment was lower by 1.7% to 218,244, while unemployment fell 10.3% to 16,664 as discouraged job seekers continued to leave the regional labor force. The summer unemployment rate for the metro area was 7.1% (compared to 7.7% a year earlier). With the labor force shrinking by 2.4%, the falling jobless rate is a sign of labor market weakness.

Among the twelve regional NAICS industry sectors, employment levels were higher in six, lower in six, and unchanged in none (compared to six, four, and two in the second quarter). Job growth was led by construction, professional & business services, other services, and education & health services. Smaller employment gains were reported by transport & utilities, and leisure & hospitality. Major job losses occurred in retail trade, government, and manufacturing. Small employment declines were reported by wholesale trade, information services, and financial services. Overall, the private sector in the metro area saw modest job growth.

During the July to September period, employment was lower in all three cities - falling 2.2% in Kingsport, 2.0% in Johnson City, and 1.2% in Bristol. Matching the regional pattern, large numbers of unemployed workers are exiting the labor market in each city. This has lowered the jobless counts, contracted the labor force, and reduced the unemployment rates. The percent of workers unemployed was 7.0% in Kingsport, 7.1% in Johnson City, and 7.1% in Bristol. As in the metro area, the lower rates in each city reflect labor market weakness.