Thursday, May 29, 2008

Paid leave for medical missions

A few weeks ago, we adopted the following policy. I imagine other hospitals have versions of it, but it actually caused some significant debate here before we adopted it. The idea is to help support people who want to devote time to work with medical relief organizations in the US or abroad. Off course, we want to be helpful to folks who want to do that, but the business issue is that it costs our hospital money if we pay people for time off -- beyond their usual earned vacation time -- to do so. So the compromise we reached is that we will pay someone for a week's time every two years, leaving people to use their own earned time beyond that if they want to engage in this kind of volunteer service.

I welcome examples from other hospitals (and, indeed, other nonprofit and for profit businesses) and am curious if our policy on this is more liberal than, consistent with, or more conservative than others'. Thanks in advance for your comments.

Humanitarian Medical Mission Leave

Staff who volunteer for medical missions under the auspices of a recognized relief organization or non-profit organization such as the American Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency (DMAT, VMAT, IMSURT), Doctors without Borders, or similar agencies, may have paid leave of up to 7 working days every two years. This leave is in addition to an individual’s earned time. The 7 days of leave can be taken in increments from one day to seven days over the two year period. Permission for leave is at the discretion of the supervisor and will be dependent on the ability to maintain adequate staffing coverage in the department.

Compensation is based on the staff member’s earned time rate and is prorated based on the compensation received from the relief organization Employees are not eligible to take medical mission leave until after twelve months of satisfactory employment and must be employees in good standing. This policy applies only to benefits eligible employees. Per diems and temporary employees are not eligible.

In addition, staff may be asked by the medical center to support the Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS) for community disaster relief. For community MMRS deployment, compensation will be based upon the staff member’s weekly scheduled hours, and local travel expenses will be reimbursed, if necessary
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10 comments:

e-Patient Dave said...

My primary reaction to this (aside from it being wonderful) is that this SO goes in the face of people who'd say "You CAN'T go around giving away money like this - healthcare costs are too high! You'll go out of business!"

It's not apples to apples but this reminds me of Hewlett-Packard's legendary policy of letting engineers have the run of the stockroom to grab parts for their personal projects. Not only does it give free rein to the employees' creativity (which they presume pays for itself in the assigned job), it makes it a GREAT place to work.

I note, too, that you said "a week's time," but you're not talking about a five-day work week - it's seven days. Awesome.

Toni Brayer MD said...

It is a great idea to have a policy like this and I agree with e-patient dave above. I am planning on doing a weeks medical mission in Honduras this summer and I'm not only paying my own expenses (almost $2000) but also using precious vacation time. Maybe I should push for a similar policy at my organization. Thanks for the idea!

SSG Jared Solomon MS 2 said...

Good for you! However, I think you should also open this up to one more area: salary gap-matching for reservists placed on orders to do their military service. Reservists have a 2 week commitment every year, and in the current military situation, military medical personnel are being called up for 18 month tours of duty, oftentimes less for physicians. I hope that you extend your charity to them.

redscrubs said...

Great post and wonderful concept. Just wanted to let you know that you were nominated (again) for a Scrubby...

Anonymous said...

I am a physician who has twice spent a few weeks in Honduras supervising medical students and seeing patients. Both times I applied for and received a small grant from the institution that employs me, through its global outreach program. The grants covered my air fare, about $800 each time. I used vacation time, which is precious during the summer. I think this arrangement contains a good balance: a little bit of sacrifice on my part (I gave up my summer two weeks off but I received more than I gave, as one almost always does in this situation) and a small expenditure by my institution's fund, with no cost at the bottom line. I would encourage any large hospital or group practice to try to develop a similar grant program. It does not take much money to fund missions like this.

Harvard Medical International's newsletter contained an interesting article about the value of such brief missions to underdeveloped countries, a few years ago. The conclusion was that there was little benefit to the recipients of such episodic care, absent a more ongoing and permanent system.

SLK said...

I think it is a great policy! I know this is rare and incredibly generous, but my organization offers a sabbatical-type program. An employee can take up to 6 months off for these kind of missions and will be paid approximately 50% of their salary, including benefits. We're also given 10 hours/year to volunteer.

Paul Levy said...

Sweet. What kind of company is this, if you don't mind my asking?

SLK said...

I work for a healthcare consulting firm (for profit), so I know this would be hard to pull off for an organization with a tight budget. I offered the example so you could think about offering more time off with reduced compensation. The 10 hours/year for volunteering is a new initiative by my firm - I think it is a great way to get us out in the community, beyond what we currently do.

dr bob spokane said...

I am in the process of trying to get my company, a non-profit staff model HMO, to do something similer. This is a pretty generous and bold program. Congratulations.

Roy said...

I was contacted to facilitate a Medical Mision to an African country by July, 2009 and when I was researching donor hospitals and volunteers, I found this type of support by your hospital and have couple of questions.

How many volunteers from your hospitals have participated and has there been any volunteers who went to Africa?

No question, this is bold and the advantage of Global Medical Mission is that it gives opportunities for first hand inception of seeing the solution to the Global Health from a different perspectives.

I hope volunteers and donation of medical equipment can be received from your hospital for the Medical Mission.