DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE INDIAN HEALTH SERVICE OKLAHOMA CITY AREA CLAREMORE INDIAN HOSPITAL CLAREMORE, OKLAHOMA and LOCAL 3601, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL



In the Matter of



DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND

HUMAN SERVICES

PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE

INDIAN HEALTH SERVICE

OKLAHOMA CITY AREA

CLAREMORE INDIAN HOSPITAL

CLAREMORE, OKLAHOMA

and Case No. 91 FSIP 148

LOCAL 3601, AMERICAN

FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT

EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

DECISION AND ORDER



The Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Indian Health Service, Oklahoma City Area, Claremore Indian Hospital, Claremore, Oklahoma (Employer), filed a request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (Panel) under the Federal Employees Flexible and Compressed Work Schedules Act of 1982 (Act), 5 U.S.C. § 6120 et seq., to resolve an impasse with Local 3601, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO (Union) arising from the determination of the head of the agency under section 6131(a)(2) of the Act to terminate a compressed work schedule.



Following investigation of the Employer's request for assistance, the Panel determined that the dispute should be resolved on the basis of written submissions from the parties, with the Panel to take final action on the matter in accordance with section 6131(c)(3)(C) of the Act and section 2472.12 of the Panel's

regulations. Submissions were made pursuant to these procedures and the Panel has considered the entire record.



BACKGROUND



The Employer's mission is to provide comprehensive health care to approximately 70,000 native Americans residing in Northern Oklahoma. The Union represents approximately 225 bargaining-unit

employees who hold a variety of health care and administrative positions at the main hospital facility in Claremore and 3 outpatient clinics in Jay, Okmulgee, and Miami, Oklahoma. Among those employees are seven medical technologists assigned to the day shift at the hospital's laboratory who run tests and collect specimens. Three of them work a 4-10 schedule (four 10-hour days in each week of a biweekly pay period) with hours from 6 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. The dispute before the Panel directly affects the workhours only of these three. The others work an 8-hour tour from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., coinciding with the public hours for the laboratory and the Outpatient Department. There are also two medical technologists on the night shift who work a 4-lo schedule who are not affected by the dispute as the Employer is not proposing to terminate that schedule for night-shift workers. A 4-10 alternative work schedule (AWS) has been available to technicians since 1985 when it was implemented unilaterally by the Employer.



In 1990, the Employer determined that the outpatient clinic at the hospital was inadequately staffed to meet patient needs; consequently, four additional General Practitioners and support staff were hired for the General Practice/Walk-in Clinic. The additional staff was able to treat more patients which substantially increased the number served by the Outpatient Department.



ISSUE AT IMPASSE



The sole question to be resolved by the Panel is whether the finding on which the agency head has based its determination to terminate the compressed work schedule for day-shift employees in the laboratory is supported by evidence that the schedule is having an adverse agency impact.7/1/ Section 6131(b) of the Act defines "adverse agency impact" as -



(1) a reduction of the productivity of the agency;



(2) a diminished level of services furnished to the public by the agency; or



(3) an increase in the cost of agency operations (other than a reasonable administrative cost relating to the process of establishing a flexible or compressed schedule).



1. The Employer's Position



The Employer maintains that the 4-10 compressed work schedule for day-shift employees is having an adverse impact on the agency and should be terminated. In this regard, the increase in the number of patients being treated in the outpatient Department (OPD) has resulted in a significant rise in the day-shift workload of the hospital laboratory. According to an affidavit submitted by the hospital's Clinical Director, "(s)ome OPD patients are waiting up to 1 hour to have their specimens collected. This drastically slows down patient turnaround time and patient processing." Furthermore, the laboratory's Chief Technologist has stated in an affidavit that the waiting time for " ... testing reports has drastically increased, (by as much as 1 hour) ... ." Although it is recognized that a need exists to hire additional personnel for the day shift in the laboratory, current day-shift technologists could be utilized better by terminating their 4-10 schedule and having them work a tour of duty which coincides more closely with the hours when the laboratory is open to the public. Eliminating the 4-10 schedule would mean that each of the three employees would be available 1 additional day per workweek, thereby increasing the level of service to the public.



Keeping outpatients waiting in the "holding areas" exposes them to additional risks from other patients. Moreover, physicians have complained about the "unacceptable waiting time for lab reports." Additionally, the paper work associated with tests is delayed, and catch up is usually done on breaks or on overtime/compensatory time at the end of the day shift thereby contributing to costs.



2. The Union's Position



The Union argues in favor of retaining the 4-10 compressed work schedule for medical technologists assigned to the day shift; it maintains that the Employer has not met its burden of demonstrating adverse agency impact. In this regard, since 1990, the work production of the laboratory has increased notwithstanding that three employees on the day shift worked a 4-10 schedule. Even though the Employer has approved 820 hours of unearned leave for laboratory employees, production nevertheless has risen.



The Employer's submission often strays from addressing the issue of adverse agency impact, and instead, deals with the purported effect which the 4-10 schedule has had on employee morale, health, and appearance. AWS may be the "scapegoat" for management's problems in the laboratory. Rather, it has contributed to productivity and improved