From New Castle News
Detectives from the Lawrence County District Attorney's office are investigating the corporate owner of the Ellwood City Medical Center, and today served a search warrant on Northwestern Bank.
The Criminal Investigation Division is conducting a theft and bad check investigation into the Americore Health, LLC located at 4337 Sea Grape Drive, Lauderdale by the Sea, Florida, and related business entities.
Americore Health purchased the Ellwood City Medical Center in October 2017 and has owned and operated the hospital system under Americore Health and its related entities.
In recent months, though, Ellwood hospital employees have complained about not receiving pay checks in a timely fashion, and some have reported that checks they did receive bounced when they attempted to cash them.
According to a news release from the district attorney's office, hospital employees are now under strict orders not to talk to the media, or say anything negative about Americore, or they could lose their employment. The CEO/Founder Grant White, the news release says, advised hospital department heads to order staff to sign non-disclosure agreements due to the recent negative media attention.
It should be noted, the release says, that employees of Ellwood hospital whose checks have bounced are victims.
In related news from the Ellwood City Ledger:
Ellwood City Medical Center workers were paid Friday January 18, 2019, but only partially.
Ellwood City Mayor Anthony Court said he was told Friday that employees were only paid minimum wage for their paychecks, with their remaining regular hourly wages owed to them.
“No one knows when they will receive the rest,” he said.
The state and federal minimum hourly wage is $7.25. The average wage at the Pershing Street hospital is $19 per hour, although some earn $50 hourly or higher.
This is at least the 10th time since August that workers have reported issues with payroll. Employees were uncertain they would receive anything at all Friday because the last two paychecks were weeks late. It took three weeks for Americore Health LLC, the Florida-based owner of the hospital, to issue cashier’s checks for the Dec. 21 payroll and nearly two weeks for pay to be distributed for the Jan. 4 payroll.
The U.S. Department of Labor and Industry is investigating the ongoing payroll delays. Lawrence County District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa also apparently has opened up a criminal investigation.
Americore CEO Grant White did not return a request Friday for comment. He and other hospital officials have not responded to numerous attempts by The Ledger to contact them in the last month.
Ellwood City Council is considering two measures Monday night it hopes will help the affected employees. The first motion will be to forgive late fee charges from the borough-run electric department to the hospital for January, February and March. The hospital already is late on its December bill. Officials have said they hope this will free up enough money for the company to pay its workers. Court said he is urging conditions be placed on the move that all saved money must be used for employees.
Council also plans to vote on a motion to eliminate late fees on electric charges for affected hospital workers for November, December and January.