Positions sought for RS Medical workers

Layoffs expected; lack of details hinders efforts

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian business editor

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Local economic development officials are brokering discussions aimed at finding replacement jobs for local workers who are likely to face layoffs from RS Medical, a Vancouver-based medical equipment company that is preparing to outsource some of its billing services. But so far, their ability to connect workers whose jobs are threatened with prospective employers is constrained by a lack of detailed information from RS Medical.

Bonnie Moore, director of business services for the Columbia River Economic Development Council, says the RS Medical employees have specialized skills that are attractive to PeaceHealth and other local medical service providers. PeaceHealth is relocating its headquarters from Bellevue to east Vancouver’s Columbia Tech Center, and it expects to add or relocate numerous medical service jobs over the next two years.

Moore said the meetings involve the CREDC as well as the Southwest Washington Workforce Center and WorkForce Vancouver. “We are actively meeting with PeaceHealth and trying to get down to numbers,” Moore said Friday.

“I have not gotten a hard number from RS Medical, and it’s very clear that if we want to work with their workers we need to have numbers.” Moore said prospective employers also need more specific information about the kinds of skills the RS Medical workers have to offer.

RS Medical employs about 400 people nationwide, includ

ing about 200 at its Vancouver headquarters. Moore said last month that her agency is anticipating a 10 to 15 percent reduction in the local payroll, but many people familiar with the company are bracing for much deeper cuts.

John Konsin, RS Medical’s president and chief executive officer, acknowledged Friday that the company is examining other service and revenue collection departments for possible cuts. The company is preparing to file a formal notification to employees under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or WARN. Generally speaking, the act requires employers to provide 60 days’ notice of plant closings or layoffs of 50 or more employees within a 30-day period.

Konsin said he still doesn’t have an expected layoff number in part because he’s hoping to retain as many workers as possible to work in the company’s growth areas. Also, the company hasn’t finalized a deal with Genpact for the contract workers who, in one internal memo, are called SMEs, or “subject matter experts.” RS Medical employees have provided training to those outsource company workers, who are mostly from India.

“We are being cautious and appropriate,” Konsin said upon his return from a business trip to Chicago, where he said he heard about one company that might want to hire RS Medical employees.

“I’m not trying to be evasive,” he said. “The culture of this company is to work hard to take care of every employee. Never say never to another opportunity.”