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Some ex-RVHS workers get pay

For more than 450 former employees of River Valley Health Systems, payday has finally arrived.

At 10 a.m. Monday, former employees of the now-defunct hospital began arriving at the third floor of the Lawrence County Courthouse to pick up their checks, receiving the sick time and vacation and holiday pay they have been owed.

This was the result of the settlement of a class-action lawsuit reached in late April in which Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas Judge Frank McCown ruled that the employees be given priority over others who were owed money by RVHS. In this settlement, the employees were given all of their holiday and vacation pay.

Another aspect of the agreement was that employees were paid one-fourth of their sick pay, court-appointed receiver and CPA Robert Payne said. According to the employee handbook, the employee would be paid one-fourth of their sick pay with a maximum of 240 hours if they retired, Payne said. This aspect of the handbook led to the decision, he said.

To avoid a huge rush at the courthouse, the employees' days to pick up their checks were divided by the first letter of their last names. Monday, employees with the last names of A-G were able to pick them up. Today, last names beginning with H-O may pick them up, and those with last names beginning with P-Z may pick them up Wednesday. The pickup times are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tonight and Thursday night, employees may also pick up their checks from 7-9 p.m. at Payne's office at 604 Fourth Street East in South Point. Anyone may pick up checks Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the courthouse as well.

To pick up the checks, employees need identification and must fill out a W-9 form for income tax purposes. They must also verify their Social Security numbers. If someone now lives out-of-town, that person may send a notarized statement that they are the person entitled to the check along with a W-9 form which are available at libraries and the IRS Web site, www.irs.gov.

Payne estimated the payout to employees is near $1.29 million.

"A few people are in disbelief," he said. "They seem to look at this as really positive. They're finishing up a chapter in their lives."

Diane Corn, a former registered nurse for the hospital, was pleased to have her check in hand. She said she did not believe she was going to get anything because she only worked part-time after returning from a vacation in October 2000. The hospital closed shortly afterward.

"I'm thankful for what I can get," she said. "I'm so thankful that people like Robert Payne fought for us."

Despite getting the check, Georgianna Rockwell, a former housekeeper, is still bitter. She said she believes that the employees deserved all -- not one-fourth -- of their sick pay. She also said the county commission should not have sold the building, but she understands that the employees may have not been paid otherwise.

Hospital executives, namely former CEO Terry Vanderhoof, getting money is the aspect that angers her most. In a closed-door meeting last month, Vanderhoof was awarded $65,000 of $138,000 he said was owed to him in severance pay and accrued sick, holiday and vacation days.

"I was Terry Vanderhoof's housekeeper," she said. "I took out his garbage; I cleaned his commode, his desk -- the whole nine yards."

"They should have just done this for the little people -- not the big people. But, it's over with and done now. There's nothing we can do now."