The clinic in Cumberland closed April 2, becoming the first ARH facility to temporarily shut its doors during a 25-day strike that saw the closures of two other facilities - another clinic in Hinton, W.Va., and a retail pharmacy in nearby Perry County.
David Brash, the Harlan ARH Hospital CEO, said the Cumberland clinic will resume operations Monday morning. Doctors and registered nurses there were transferred to Harlan almost immediately after the union's strike commenced April 1, when ARH's previous three-year contract with the Steelworkers expired.
Lynch Mayor Bob Collier said some residents have expressed concern, and agitation, with the clinic's closure. He said he, too, has been anxious to learn when it would reopen.
"I'm looking forward to it opening. We've got a lot of people who are sick and need to see doctors," Collier said.
The clinic's retail pharmacy, which also closed the first week of the strike, has been open for a couple of weeks now, Brash said.
ARH is calling its union members back to work based on seniority within their job classifications, Brash said. Some returned as early as Friday.
"We brought back some employees this morning and will continue to bring employees back as the (patient) volume dictates," Brash said. He said no time frame has been set as to when most or all employees will be called back.
"It's simply based on volume," Brash said, adding that employees not called back will be placed on layoff status.
Of ARH's approximately 2,072 union employees who voted Wednesday, 1,576 voted in favor of the contract. In Harlan, more than 80 percent - 294 out of 353 - approved the contract. Local union members voted from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the National Guard Armory in Harlan. By late Wednesday, pickets were already being removed in Harlan and Cumberland.
According to ARH, the South Williamson union chapter was the only local to vote against the new agreement. Ratification required more than 50 percent approval by ARH's nine locals.
Following Wednesday's contract ratification, ARH released a statement explaining that the company "will immediately begin to formulate a staffing and recall plan to facilitate the return of employees as soon as possible.
"Obviously, operational requirements, including patient volumes, will be the determining factors driving the staffing and recall process," the company's statement said. According to ARH, the company serves 350,000 people in eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia.
Roger McGinnis, president of the United Steelworkers Local 14491 in Harlan, said most union employees are expecting to return to work. Those who will be called back later, or possibly not at all, are eligible for unemployment benefits, he said.
"I think everyone is expecting to return (to work). It's just going to take a little time to go through the process," McGinnis said.
In an earlier report, Brash said operations and patient volumes at the Harlan ARH Hospital and Daniel Boone Clinic - with hired help and extended work shifts - were holding up well during the strike.
ARH received an official 10-day strike notice on March 20 after negotiations repeatedly broke down due to disagreements over employee benefits, including pensions, starting standard rates for new hires, sick time, disability and holiday pay. Negotiations had been ongoing since late January.
When ARH's contract with the United Steelworkers expired at 12:01 a.m. April 1, 440 of its approximately 650 employees in Harlan County joined picket lines at the Harlan ARH Hospital, Daniel Boone Clinic and Tri-City Medical Center.
Two arrests were made in Harlan on the first night of the strike, and an ARH supervisor was cited to court on the second day after allegedly striking a protester in the leg with her vehicle while crossing the picket line.
Also during the first week, ARH was denied a request for injunctive relief in Harlan Circuit Court after claiming that entrances to the local hospital were being blocked, and the Harlan County Fiscal Court was criticized by ARH officials for drafting a resolution in a show of support for local union members.
The strike was the third since ARH bought its facilities from the United Mine Workers in 1963. The first strike, in 1974, lasted for 119 days and the second, in 1986, lasted 91.
McGinnis said most union employees are prepared to get back to the normalcy of their lives.
"We were hoping it would be a short strike, but we were also preparing for it to be a long one," he said, adding that the community's support was "overwhelming."
"I think that's what made this strike a strike that was much different than the ones in the past. The county support, the county government support, even your county sheriff's department, even your Kentucky State Police ... all have been very supportive.
"We appreciate the patients' and the community's support, and now we're asking that they come back and support us as we go back to work," McGinnis said.
The new three-year contract between ARH and the United Steelworkers became effective upon its ratification and continues through midnight March 31, 2010.
In addition to hospitals in Hazard, Middlesboro, Whitesburg, South Williamson, McDowell and Morgan County, as well as Beckley and Hinton, W.Va, ARH operates several clinics, home health agencies, HomeCare stores and retail pharmacies.