Acuity Ambassadors Promote Employee Stock Ownership

WHEELING — Amid many variables in modern health care operations, an employee-owned company remains a rarity.

Acuity Specialty Hospital, which has three area sites, operates under an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. Acuity offers long-term acute care at Wheeling Hospital, Weirton Medical Center and the former Belmont Community Hospital building in Bellaire.

Acuity became an ESOP entity in 2013, said Lisa Bien, vice president of communications.

“We are the only hospital company that is 100 percent employee-owned,” she said.

It has established an ambassadors program to help workers understand their role in an ESOP company and to coordinate community outreach efforts.

“We wanted to get folks to understand about all the employees thinking like an employee owner: how we care about our patients and think about them as family,” Bien said.

Jodi Rusinovich, who became an ambassador about a year ago, said, “It’s a great company. As an employee-owned company, we really care and we take good care of our patients.”

Rusinovich works with the Acuity administration on physicians’ credentials for its Ohio Valley facilities.

A newer ambassador, Eleanor “Elli” Garbark, joined Acuity as a unit secretary in July 2018.

“I love my job,” Garbark said. “It’s a huge breath of fresh air to be excited to go to work, and I love the people I work with.”

Bien said, “We have ambassadors company-wide at all locations. … They meet monthly and talk about initiatives that help support the company. Each location gets involved in their community and their home base.”

Rusinovich said the local program coordinates celebrations for National ESOP Month in October and Acuity Health Care Week in July. Employees collect school supplies and participate in walks to raise funds for health-related efforts in the community.

“We engage with the employees,” Rusinovich said. “We find that being employee-owned, there is more of a buy-in for employees. By taking care of the community and that patient well, that (message) goes out into the community and brings more patients to us. … We have some of the best employees.”

Through employee ownership, “we now see we make a difference. We can make it better,” Rusinovich said.

When issues are raised and suggestions are made, “we take it right to the board of directors and get it discussed. They (employees) can see things progressing. It also progresses out in to the communty,” she added.

Garbark said the ambassadors program “is giving our employees a voice. It’s really getting our floor staff excited and involved in things that perhaps they weren’t involved in before. … We all have a voice and it gets heard. It’s very, very comforting.”

On a personal level, she added, “It’s definitely been exciting to me. I’m not just a secretary. I get to be part of something a little bit bigger. It’s really raised my confidence level. It’s really made me even more excited to go to work every day.”

Citing other benefits, Rusinovich said, “For employees, they’re more engaged. They see a better outcome and see how well the company is doing. They have to feel that they have been a big contributor to that. For the patients, they are receiving the best care they can in this valley.”

As published in: and

Pictured here: Acuity Specialty Hospital employees
Jodi Rusonovich and Eleanor “Elli” Garbark enjoy serving
as ambassadors for the employee-owned company.