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Business News: Renown complaints continue in wake of CEO firing

By Bob Conrad
Reno Business Weekly

Officials with Renown Regional Medical Center are painting a rosy picture of the hospital. A press call two weeks ago with the hospital’s interim CEO and board chair revealed little, however, of last month’s “for-cause” firing of CEO Tony Slonim

Renown board chair Adam Kramer said during a virtual press conference hospital officials would not comment on Slonim or the circumstances surrounding his firing. 

“I’m really proud at where the system as a whole is heading,” Kramer said. “Renown Health is in a phenomenal position.”

The hospital, in the wake of Slonim’s ouster, swiftly launched talking points about how the hospital is a wonderful place and is moving forward.

“As we continue to make strides forward, it’s remarkable to reflect on the progress we’ve made and the obstacles we’ve overcome,” said Thomas Graf, Renown’s interim CEO, in an email just days after Slonim was fired.

The positive talking points were repeated during the press call.

Graf said the hospital is focused on quality.

“We’re excited about where the future is going,” he said. “We’re going to be focused on quality and what I call programmatic innovation.”

Renown would not make Graf and Kramer available for interviews with This Is Reno. 

Workplace called a snake pit

Numerous sources contacted This Is Reno before and after Slonim’s firing. Most would not speak on the record, as some were former Renown employees who had signed non-disparagement agreements after being fired under Slonim’s reign. 

Renown, also, will not identify its own spokespeople in statements released to the news media.

Sources said the hospital is a snake pit.

“Everything was extremely ego driven: ‘I did this, I did that,’” a former employee said, speaking only on the condition of anonymity. “People took credit for other people’s work – a lot of gaslighting. There’s a true intimidation factor. They can fire you for anything. Many had to go into therapy.”

Employees said they filed complaints internally in hopes of seeking resolutions to myriad concerns. 

“I tried to go through normal channels,” a former employee said. “That’s when I started getting pointed toward the door. They did not want to hear what I had to say. HR said it was me.”

Award met with laugh-fest

In what reads like a paid article on News Channel 2, the hospital claims it is recognized as “Top Place To Work” in 2022 by Ragan Communications. 

Ragan Communications is a “resource and publisher of information about corporate communications.” It runs awards programs for businesses and organizations that pay to enter to get such accolades, a point not mentioned in the KTVN article. The article, at the end, notes, “Renown Health assisted with this story” [sic].

Renown Health has been recognized as one of the “Top Places to Work” in 2022 by Ragan Communications. Reviewers said… Posted by KTVN 2 News on Monday, April 11, 2022

Comments below the article on Facebook were critical. More than 125 people hit the laugh reaction button in response to the post.

“Worked there for 5 years, wouldn’t have my worst enemy work there,” a former employee, Tyler, wrote in response to the article on Facebook. 

Another said it is “hard to be a top place to work when you do multiple rounds of layoffs every couple years.”

Love sculpture outside of Renown.
The LOVE sculpture from Burning Man placed in front of Renown during the COVID-19 pandemic to send thanks and love to first responders. Image: Bob Conrad

Renown’s marketing chief, Suzanne Hendery, who won’t respond to local media, told Ragan in December the hospital’s “strategy is ‘always to create raving fans of Renown Health.’ To gauge messaging success, Hendery ‘loves seeing numbers,’ such as how many employees attend virtual meetings, the number of comments or questions on intranet posts, or the phone calls and emails received from employees.”

Another employee described working for Renown like being thrown into a “lion’s den. It was the absolute worst job I ever had. Management was the absolute worst and had zero solutions to offer.”

Doctor fired after filing harassment complaint

One local doctor contacted This Is Reno just after Slonim was fired. The doctor, who is female, filed in 2019 a complaint against another doctor, a male, alleging serial instances of sexual harassment by the male doctor.

She complained to Renown’s human resources department about the allegations but was terminated after sounding the alarm. The alleged sexually harassing doctor is still working at the hospital.

The doctor who made the complaint was subsequently fired “without cause,” meaning the hospital had no reason to fire her.  

Legal documents appear to substantiate her claims. She would only speak to This Is Reno on the condition her name would not be disclosed publicly, citing her standing in the community.

“There are strong indications that the termination was in retaliation for [the doctor’s] role in elevating to Renown Human Resources … a set of serious reports that she had received of sexual misconduct by one of her male … partners,” an attorney wrote to Renown. “These reports were made to [her] by five separate members of the Renown staff.”’

She said she felt, as a mandated reporter, she had to raise the concerns to Renown’s human resources department. Less than two months after filing the complaint, however, the doctor was placed on suspension. She was then summoned to a meeting with hospital officials. 

“At that meeting, [she] was first advised that Renown had reviewed her emails and was placing her on suspension pending an investigation,” the attorney wrote. “No explanation was given as to what event or events precipitated this unprecedented and invasive email review, or who had directed it to occur.”

The doctor was fired the day after the meeting. The legal letter was crafted shortly thereafter. 

“I kept my medical staff privileges,” she said. “I never got rehired but I got my provider badge back.” That allows her to keep treating patients at Renown. 

She also said Renown’s board of directors was aware of her situation.

“That to me was the issue,” she said. “They are our community board, and this board was asleep at the wheel.”

Kimmie Candy reopens to public

Kimmie Candy’s reopening. Photo courtesy of Kathy Grant.

Local candy maker Kimmie Candy reopened its chocolate factory April 1. More than 100 people stopped by, helping to raise over $1,500 for the Ukraine Relief Fund. 

Kimmie Candy closed to the public during the pandemic and is now open 3 to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, at 405 Edison Way. Its new store features not just Kimmie Candy, but candy from companies around the western United States.

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Business news briefs

Landmark Title adds Reno branch. The company opened its first Nevada office in Las Vegas in July 2020 and now has a branch in Reno. “The addition of a Reno branch is part of our plan for growth throughout the Southwest,” said Vicki Etherton, company president. “As we open new offices in Arizona and Nevada, we continue to hire and build our team of seasoned professionals.”  

State initiative to train and certify Nevadans in cloud computing. In collaboration with Amazon Web Services, education institutions across the state will deliver a cloud computing curriculum focused on in-demand tech jobs. The collaboration will provide access to cloud computing education courses and certifications through higher education and high schools. “As thousands of cloud computing jobs go unfulfilled in Nevada and across the globe, AWS is providing curriculum, resources, and tools to help learners gain new or improved tech skills,” said Kim Majerus, VP at AWS. 

Stellar Snacks adds a manufacturing plant in Reno. The 475,000 square foot building will enable the pretzel manufacturer to become one of the largest in the U.S. “Our product, people and passion for making a ‘better for you’ snack are the foundation of our success; and now with a 4.5X increase to real estate and production capacity, we can scale this effort in a meaningful way,” said Elisabeth Galvin, founder of Stellar Snacks. 

All StarZ Staffing & Consulting, Inc. announces adds new location in Reno. The new branch will connect job seekers with jobs in the food production, manufacturing, warehousing, clerical and other service fields. “Our success is a byproduct of our clients and the quality of talent we produce is paramount to our client’s success,” said the company’s Tyler Crass.

State launches dashboard to track American Rescue Plan spending. Nevada launched a data dashboard which tracks how the state is spending federal American Rescue Plan funds.  

The dashboard, which can be found under the “By The Numbers” tab at NevadaRecovers.com, provides the public a real-time accounting of funds received by the State and where the funds have been obligated. The page also contains links to reports Nevada sends to the U.S. Treasury.

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