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Galesburg job fairs continue, as area hospitals hope to recruit fired Cottage employees

On January 21, UnityPoint Health held a job fair in Galesburg. But the influx of available and experienced healthcare workers can be stressful for recent graduates.

GALESBURG, Ill. — Two weeks after Galesburg Cottage Hospital abruptly closed its doors, regional hospitals are still hoping to recruit the healthcare teams laid off in the aftermath. 

On Friday, Jan. 21, UnityPoint Health held a job fair at Carl Sandburg College, with a specific target group in mind: terminated Cottage staffers.  

"We're here for the displaced Cottage Hospital employees. We wanted to have a strong presence and then also open it up to the community," said Marisa Pfoff, regional talent manager for UnityPoint Health. "Our main goal right now is to focus on all positions, meaning clinic and non-clinical." 

It follows another job fair, hosted by OSF St. Mary, the other hospital in Galesburg, earlier in the month. That same hospital has also set up a hotline for Cottage patients seeking a transfer of care over to OSF. 

RELATED: OSF dedicates hotline for former Cottage Hospital patients seeking care

"We've had many Cottage employees come in and join us here and have come on board and, you know, we're uniting and locking arms and we're working together side by side," said Lisa DeKezel, president of OSF St. Mary. 

The owners of Cottage Hospital continue to maintain that the shutdown is only temporary, and the suspension of procedures will hopefully be lifted. But many employees don't buy it.

In the weeks leading up to the closure, entire teams of the hospital were unexpectedly terminated - almost all, via emails. Many former staffers tell News 8 that when they would attempt to call the hospital's HR department to ask what was going on, their calls wouldn't even be picked up. 

Now, many former staffers say they still haven't received paychecks. 

"It's really disheartening," Pfoff said. "The message that they got - that was delivered - was a pretty harsh one. So we wanted to make sure that we do give them the support." 

While News 8 was at the fair on Friday morning, our crews did speak with a few Cottage employees, looking for new employment, but all declined to speak on record. 

RELATED: Mattresses, gurney found in garbage at Cottage Hospital as officials avoid questions

But at least one person who attended the event is hopeful some good news will soon come her way. 

"I'm just hopping into the medical field," said Shelby Nees. 

A recent graduate of Carl Sandburg College, Nees says she entered the labor market just as Cottage was closing its doors. While she's maintained a positive attitude, she says the sudden influx of trained, experienced healthcare employees in the area has made it difficult for her to find work. 

"It can be really stressful," Nees said. "With Cottage shutting down, it's been a little difficult with people having more experience than me. So that's been a challenge. But in the end, I feel like if you want to join the medical field, you really need to show them how enthusiastic and willing you are. Don't give up!" 

The health system's fair held walk-in hours with managers and recruiters available all afternoon. Applicants were able to speak to UnityPoint representatives both in person and via laptops, with on-the-spot interview opportunities. 

Currently, UnityPoint is recruiting for open positions such as: 

  • RN (All areas of hospital, clinics and home care) 
  • LPN 
  • PCT, CNA, Medical Assistants 
  • Social Worker, Behavioral Health, Substance Abuse 
  • Therapy-PT/OT/SLP & PTA and COTA 
  • Respiratory Therapists 
  • Imaging - Ultrasound, Vascular and Radiology Techs 
  • Laboratory - Phlebotomists, Lab Specimen Processors, and MLTs
  • Support Service Areas - Housekeeping, Nutrition Services, Patient Access/Registration 

According to Pfoff, UnityPoint's Peoria location, alone, has over 600 open positions. The health system's website says that number is roughly 120 openings in Moline. 

"It's really important for us to move quickly," Pfoff said. "In the healthcare field, in general, this is one of the hardest times. We know recruiting across the board is really tough, but for healthcare it's so challenging." 

With the latest Covid surge, fueled by the Omicron variant, UnityPoint hospitals have been slammed over the past few weeks. It's been an exhausting situation, according to Pfoff. 

"Our teams are defeated," she said. "So the more people we can have and add value to our teams, that helps everyone across the board. I would say our morale is probably down more than it ever has been, but I think (the staff) has been leaning on each other for support. We lean on each other a lot." 

Find WQAD's full coverage of Galesburg Cottage Hospital here.

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