Baystate Finalizes Noble Hospital Acquisition
WESTFIELD — The trustees of Baystate Health and Noble Hospital announced that Noble and its affiliated entities are now part of Baystate Health. The hospital is now known as Baystate Noble Hospital and will join Baystate’s team of community hospitals in Greenfield, Palmer, and Ware. Ronald Bryant, currently president and CEO of Noble Hospital, will accept the position of president of Baystate Noble Hospital, in accordance with Baystate Health’s structure for its community-hospital leadership. Bryant will report to Dennis Chalke, senior vice president of Community Hospitals for Baystate Health. “We’re proud to welcome Noble and its team members to the Baystate family and to bring their proud tradition of outstanding, compassionate care into our organization,” said Dr. Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health. “Now, we’ll move on to the most important part of this change: advancing the quality, access, and value of care provided to the Westfield community.” As president of Baystate Noble, Bryant will continue to provide strategic, executive, and operational leadership for the hospital, which offers a variety of inpatient and outpatient services including medical, surgical, pulmonary rehabilitation, cardiac, and emergency services for more than 100,000 local residents. “For me, this is a new phase and an extension of an already-strong relationship,” said Bryant. “From heart-attack care to neurosciences to obstetrics, the Noble community has a long-standing and thriving relationship with Baystate Health. I’m honored to be able to play a part in this new relationship — and step forward — in service of the Westfield community’s health.” Added Chalke, “Ron has led Noble to success in the most challenging of environments for community hospitals. We’re very pleased to work with him as we continue our efforts to provide as much care as possible close to home, effectively and efficiently, for our communities in Western Massachusetts.” Baystate continues its tradition of upholding the histories of partner organizations that endure in their names, Chalke noted. “We’re very pleased to honor the memory of Reuben Noble and continue to provide the outstanding care that patients have come to expect from Noble.” Bryant earned his undergraduate degree from Assumption College and has a master’s degree in health administration from St. Joseph’s College. He also is a licensed certified public accountant. He is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives and the Mass. Hospital Assoc. board of trustees. Noble has about 750 employees who will join Baystate Health’s team of 11,500 across Western Mass. Noble Hospital trustees Robert Bacon and Harriet DeVerry will join the Baystate Health board of trustees as representatives of Noble and its community. Baystate Noble will not retain a separate board of trustees. Noble Hospital has served the Greater Westfield community since 1893, when Westfield native Reuben Noble bequeathed a large portion of his estate to establish a local hospital. The original hospital had 20 beds and was staffed by eight physicians. The Nurses’ Training School opened in 1905 and graduated 144 nurses before closing in 1936. In 1958, a new hospital was built featuring updated facilities and equipment. Noble Hospital has seen many changes in its 122 years, including new service lines, state-of-the-art medical enhancements, and facility additions and improvements. The new Baystate Noble Hospital name and logo will be integrated into all signage and materials in the weeks to come. The Noble Visiting Nurse & Hospice logo has also been updated to reflect its connection to Baystate Health.
MGM Springfield Seeks One-year Delay
SPRINGFIELD — The Massachusetts Gaming Commission will consider a formal request by MGM Springfield to delay the opening of its South End resort casino by one year. MGM Springfield President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Mathis appeared before the commission recently to discuss the request. He cited, as the main reason, the rehabilitation of the Interstate 91 viaduct through downtown Springfield — a project expected to last into the summer of 2018. The casino was originally expected to open in late 2017, and Mathis said opening a casino during viaduct construction is not feasible. MGM is asking to open the casino in September 2018, or one month after the completion of viaduct work. The I-91 project is expected to limit the number of lanes in both directions, creating considerable traffic. Initial viaduct work is expected to start this July, with ramp and lane closures beginning in late fall. The Gaming Commission, which must sign off on any change in the casino construction schedule, could make a decision on at its July meeting.
Jobless Rate Unchanged in New England in May
BOSTON — The New England Information Office of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has released New England and state unemployment numbers for May 2015. These data are supplied by the Local Area Unemployment Statistics program, which produces monthly and annual employment, unemployment, and labor-force data for census regions and divisions, states, counties, metropolitan areas, and many cities, by place of residence. Among highlights in the release:
• The New England unemployment rate was essentially unchanged at 4.9% in May. One year ago, the New England jobless rate was higher, at 6.0%.
• Four New England states posted jobless rates that were significantly different from the U.S. rate of 5.5%. Vermont (3.6%), New Hampshire (3.8%), Massachusetts (4.6%), and Maine (4.7%) recorded lower-than-average unemployment rates.
• Over the last year, five New England states recorded statistically significant unemployment rate decreases with declines ranging from 2.0% in Rhode Island to 0.4% in Vermont. In fact, Rhode Island had the largest jobless-rate decline nationwide.
State Lowers Business Rate for Workers’ Compensation
BOSTON — The Baker-Polito administration will reduce the assessment employers pay to the state on workers’ compensation insurance policies by 0.05%, offering companies some tax relief. For fiscal year 2016, employers will pay an assessment on their total insurance premium of 5.75%, which is remitted to the state. The previous rate was 5.8%. The new rate went into effect July 1. The Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) administers the workers’ compensation insurance system and annually establishes assessment rates. “After reviewing the current assessment rate and the economic outlook for next year, we recommended lowering the rate. This will further support businesses, and anything we can do to support businesses and spur job growth is a very good thing,” said Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker II. The Massachusetts workers’ compensation system is in place to make sure workers are protected by insurance if they are injured on the job or develop a work-related illness. Under this system, all employers in Massachusetts are required by state law to carry workers’ compensation insurance covering their employees, including themselves if they are an employee of their company. The insurance pays for any reasonable and necessary medical treatment for job-related injury or illness, pays compensation for lost wages after the first five calendar days of full or partial disability, and in some cases provides retraining for employees who qualify. DIA is funded through assessments on workers’ compensation policies and self-insurance programs for employers operating in Massachusetts. In addition, DIA collects statutory fines and fees. DIA also acts as a court system responsible for resolving disputed workers’ compensation claims, overseeing and adjudicating about 12,000 disputed cases each year.
Employers Grapple with Earned Sick Leave Law
SPRINGFIELD — Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey filed final regulations on June 19 regarding the new Earned Sick Leave Law that took effect this month, leaving employers with only eight business days to make payroll and policy changes to stay in compliance of the law. The final regulations addressed questions about the law’s ambiguities that have been raised throughout the Commonwealth, including several by local employment-law attorney Kimberly Klimczuk, partner at Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C. Klimczuk testified before the attorney general during the public hearing in Springfield in May, advocating for employers. “This public-notice and comment period offered by the attorney general was our opportunity to gain clarity on behalf of employers,” said Klimczuk. “Over the last six months, I have presented to almost a dozen groups of human-resource professionals and clients that had questions not clearly answered within the law or previously issued regulations.” Klimczuk brought the questions to the attention of the attorney general so that ambiguities could be addressed within the final regulations. The final regulations clarified several issues, such as whether sick leave can be used concurrently with leave taken pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act or other leave laws, whether differential pay would be included in sick pay, and whether policies that condition holiday pay on attendance the day before and the day after the holiday would be acceptable under the non-retaliation provisions of the law. “I was impressed with how responsive the attorney general and her staff were to employer concerns,” she said. “Many of the issues I raised at the public hearing were explicitly addressed in the final regulations, such as the provision about holiday policies, which was a huge relief to many of my clients. While not everything was resolved in exactly the way we had hoped, in many areas, we at least have the information we need to provide a definitive answer to our clients’ questions.” Still, given the short period of time between the issuance of the final regulations and the effective date of the law, many employers have been scrambling to make the policy changes necessary to come into compliance.
Census Pinpoints State’s Oldest, Youngest Counties
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Based on median age, the U.S. Census Bureau recently reported on which counties in Massachusetts had the oldest populations and which had the youngest. The U.S. median age ticked up from 37.6 on July 1, 2013 to 37.7 on July 1, 2014. These estimates examine population changes among groups by age, sex, race, and national origin, as well as in all states and counties, between April 1, 2010, and July 1, 2014. The counties in Massachusetts with the highest median age on July 1, 2014 were Barnstable at 52, Dukes at 46.7, and Berkshire at 46.1. This means that half the population was older than this age, and half younger. The youngest counties — that is, those with the lowest median age — were Suffolk at 32.4, Hampshire at 35.7, and Middlesex at 38.4. As the nation aged, so did most counties in Massachusetts, with the exception of Norfolk, Essex, Nantucket, Hampden, and Middlesex, where the median age remained the same between 2013 and 2014. Nationally, non-Hispanic, single-race whites represented the largest group in 2014, at 197.9 million. Hispanics were next, with a population of 55.4 million, followed by blacks, at 45.7 million, Asians (20.3 million), American Indians and Alaska natives (6.5 million), and native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders (1.5 million). In Massachusetts, there were 3,144,704 non-Hispanic single-race whites. Other races, alone or in combination, included 731,206 Hispanics, 639,843 blacks, 475,356 Asians, 69,207 American Indians or Alaska natives, and 14,205 native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders. Unless otherwise specified, the statistics refer to the population who reported a race alone or in combination with one or more races. Censuses and surveys permit respondents to select more than one race; consequently, people may be one race or a combination of races. The sum of the populations for the five ‘race alone or in combination’ groups adds to more than the total population because individuals may report more than one race.
Classic Cars Return to Springfield This Summer
SPRINGFIELD — The Duryea Motor Wagon Co., the first American firm to build gasoline automobiles, had its beginnings in Springfield back in 1895. Now classic and antique cars are making their way back to Springfield for Cruise Night, occurring every Monday this summer. The event offers not only classic and antique cars, but also great music and delicious food. “I was thrilled that downtown could play host to Cruise Night,” said Chris Russell, executive director of the Springfield Business Improvement District. “With all the history of the automobile in Springfield, we thought it only made sense to have a car show. If you love the classic automobiles as much as I do, please join us next Monday night. And if you have a classic car of your own, don’t forget to register, too.” Cruise Night at Stearns Square features classic and antique cars that are 20 years or older. Individuals who want to register a car may do so beginning at 5 p.m. Registration is on Worthington Street across from Stearns Square. Registration fees are currently being waived. At the end of each night, trophies will be awarded. For more information, visit springfielddowntown.com/cruise-night.
ACCGS Seeks Super 60 Nominations
SPRINGFIELD — The Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield (ACCGS) is seeking nominations for its annual Super 60 awards program, sponsored by Berkshire Bank and WWLP-TV 22. Now in its 26th year, the awards program celebrates the success of the fastest-growing privately owned businesses in the region. Each year, the program identifies the top-performing companies in revenue growth and total revenue. Last year, total revenue winners combined for revenues of over $1 billion with an average revenue of more than $35 million. One-third of the winners in the revenue-growth category experienced growth in excess of 50%, with the average growth of all the honorees in that category at more than 49%. To be considered, companies must be based in Hampden or Hampshire county or be a member of the ACCGS, report revenues of at least $1 million in the last fiscal year, be an independent and privately owned company, and have been in business for at least three full years. Companies are selected based on their percentage of revenue growth over a full three-year period or total revenues for the latest fiscal year. Companies may be nominated by financial institutions, attorneys, or accountants, or be self-nominated. Companies must submit a nomination form and provide net-operating-revenue figures for the last three full fiscal years, signed and verified by an independent auditor. All financial information must be reported under generally accepted accounting principles and will be held and considered confidential and not released without prior approval. Nomination forms are available by contacting Kara Cavanaugh at [email protected] or (413) 755-1310. Nominations must be submitted no later than Aug. 14. The Super 60 awards will be presented at the annual luncheon and recognition program on Oct. 23 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Chez Josef in Agawam.
Report Outlines State Underemployment Stats
BOSTON — The New England Information Office of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has released “Alternative Measures of Labor Underutilization in Massachusetts 2014,” with data supplied by the Current Population Survey (CPS) program, a monthly survey of households conducted by the Bureau of Census for the BLS. The comprehensive body of data includes labor force, employment, unemployment, persons not in the labor force, hours of work, earnings, and other demographic and labor-force characteristics. Among the highlights from the release:
• In 2014, the broadest measure of labor underutilization, designated U-6 (which includes the unemployed, workers employed part-time for economic reasons, and those marginally attached to the labor force), was 11.5% in Massachusetts, down from 13.2% in 2013. Nationally, the U-6 rate averaged 12.0% in 2014.
• As measured by U-3 (the official concept of unemployment, which includes all jobless persons who are available to take a job and have actively sought work in the past four weeks), the unemployment rate in Massachusetts was 5.8%. By comparison, 6.2% of the labor force was unemployed nationally.
• Massachusetts had 204,800 unemployed residents in 2014 according to the CPS, and another 164,300 were employed part-time for economic reasons (also known as involuntary part-time). These individuals worked part-time because of slack work or business conditions, or because they were unable to find a full-time job. Nationwide, there were 7.2 million individuals working part-time for economic reasons in 2014.
• Discouraged workers, included among the marginally attached, are persons who are not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. In 2014, there were 13,500 discouraged workers in Massachusetts.
• In 2014, Massachusetts was among the 23 states where all six measures of underutilization significantly decreased over the year.