Looking at these smiling people, you would never think that the topic of the day was possible layoffs, reduction of employee benefits, and other such matters. As promised in my message a couple of days ago, we held the first of a series of town meetings yesterday to explain our financial situation and to solicit ideas and suggestions from people as to how we might meet this year's budget gap.
Over 600 people joined in three quickly assembled sessions. And we will hold more next week, too.
Then, in a couple of weeks, I will send out another message listing the ideas that seem to be practical, legal, and implementable -- along with their budgetary impact -- and conduct a rough survey of our staff to see which ones they favor. Then, by April 1, we will decide what we are going to do and the schedule for doing it.
As expected, the response from the staff has been spectacular. People have a terrific sense of community and are quite willing to make sacrifices for the good of their fellow workers. (And, as you can see in the picture above, people are maintaining a good sense of humor, too.) I'm going to post some of their comments for you below so you can get a sense of the sentiment.
Beyond the general feeling, I was very, very pleased when I asked people if they agreed with my predisposition to protect our lower wage earners (e.g., transporters, housekeepers, food service people) from measures we take, even if it means that other people have to give up more of their salary and benefits. The response was overwhelmingly positive, as you can see in Brenda's and others' notes below.
In this era of sometimes cynical and sometimes selfish behavior, I was heartened by the response of our folks. They are kind people who view themselves as a family and who are approaching our hospital's financial problems with a true generosity of spirit. Here are some examples. First, from Brenda, a nurse in our neonatal intensive care unit:
I attended today's 4pm town meeting and about halfway through the meeting, I found myself on the verge of tears. Not just because of how worried I am, and not because of how sad the situation makes me, but because of how overwhelmingly proud I feel to be a part of the BIDMC community.
I have worked in the NICU since November 2007, so I am pretty new to the hospital. I have worked in several different hospitals and I have never witnessed what I witnessed today. First you began by telling us how hard you were trying to avoid layoffs. Any CEO could say that. But what impressed me was the deeply human way you explained how difficult this process is. The fact that you are considering that many employees' spouses have already lost jobs, and that you know employees who lose jobs will have a very hard time finding new ones showed such compassion and respect that I was stunned. However, your request that we try to minimize the effect any cuts will have on the lowest-paid employees was what brought me to tears-- that and the loud applause you received after making that request.
I know the next few months will be extremely difficult for all of us. But it is so comforting to know that the people I work with are not just sitting back and letting things happen. After this afternoon's meeting, we had our own "post-town meeting meeting" to review what you had said, and to toss around suggestions. I know those little meetings are happening all over the medical center. I have never been prouder of the people I work with and the hospital I work for.
From Brian in finance:
First of all, I sincerely appreciate your honesty and openness. Thank you for that. It’s refreshing to see that in this day and age.
I am a new employee here, only being here three weeks. I wasn’t going to email you, but I felt that I just had to. I was laid off back in October from the hospital I worked at in Rhode Island. I collected unemployment until I got my job here.
Obviously, I want to keep this job. I’m sure I echo most people’s thoughts when I say that no one wants anyone else to be laid off, and we are all willing to do whatever is necessary to make sure that as few as possible actually lose their jobs.
I think the ideas on taking pay cuts, or maybe working one day a week less, can work. I stand behind whatever decisions you and the Senior Management team makes. Thank you for you candor, and please keep us all informed!
From Lindsay, a nurse:
I have been here at BIDMC for 10 years. I am a huge supporter of your leadership and your willingness to include all staff in your decision making. Our floor just had a staff meeting on Monday to discuss ways we could cut costs for our floor. We were all in agreement to find out if it was an option to eliminate the 3% pay raise, and our manager was going to look into this. So, that would be my vote as a first measure to save some money.
I look forward to attending your town hall meeting tomorrow to discuss other options if necessary. Thank you for including all members of BIDMC in making this hard decision.
From Carol, a nurse:
I am hoping people weigh in on some of your solutions, such as reducing future earned time accruals or forfeiting past accruals of earned time. I know I personally would be willing to forfeit some past accruals of earned time if it would prevent lay-offs.
From Julie, a technical assistant:
Your letter has tapped into what I have been thinking about for the last few weeks. It had occurred to me that perhaps forgoing one's annual raise would be helpful, and I was going to throw the idea out to you, but had not managed yet to put anything in writing. It was a tough idea to come up with, since I look forward to that raise every year, but if it would mean that we don't have to lay someone off, or reduce services, I would agree wholeheartedly to do so.
I think that you express what has been floating around in our collective unconscious; we look at what is going on in the world, and it is a small leap to see how our hospital is affected. I do think, though, that people at the lowest pay grades should not see any reduction in their raises.
From Kathleen, a nurse:
I think it is important to keep as many of us working as possible. I would forgo my 3 percent increase and give us a day of ET to help avoid layoffs. I am concerned about our coworkers who are making a lower wage. I'm sure you're aware that life has gotten more expensive. I hope there is a way that people who are on the lower end of the totem pole can still receive their increases.
From Catherine, a nurse:
I would be more than happy to forgo a pay raise and reduce my earned time if that would mean another person in the hospital could keep their job. I think this is a great idea and I hope my colleagues feel the same.
From Martha, a medical technician:
I am very sure that most of us in nuclear medicine would be willing to give up the 3% pay raise and also give up some of our earned time to prevent layoffs.
From Wilbert, a respiratory therapist:
One week of unpaid LOA, 3% of wage reduction, night and weekend differentials, temporary elimination of annual raise and bonuses, efficient work load and staffing all combined are 100 times better than laying off a single employee. Make a quick survey of these vs lay-off. This should tell us the best way to go about it.
From Bernice, an MRI technician:
I would rather take the loss of my yearly raise then see a fellow employee laid off.
And from Ediss, a program manager:
Thank you for this informative note and for the openness with which the issue is presented and being discussed. We held a brief department meeting this morning and everyone is very appreciative of your approach and the invitation to contribute ideas to inform decision making. I've encouraged everyone to write directly to you too to express their thanks and let you know their ideas.
So far, everyone feels that giving back earned time is the way to go--less painful than going a day without pay (like the City of Lynn apparently did) as you don't really feel the loss in your weekly paycheck. Staff are very committed to everyone feeling the pain a little and saving jobs where ever we can.
These are initial reactions. Hopefully we'll come up with additional cost-savings ideas to contribute to the overall effort but for now, a huge thank you from your grateful employees.