|Ocala, FL -
June 27, 2012|
Published in Ocala Star Banner Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 5:41 p.m.
Munroe Regional Medical Center's governing board approved pay raises for most employees on Monday amid fears that the hospital is losing talent to competing hospitals.
The Munroe Regional Health System board vote was cast after hospital management warned that two years without raises left the hospital paying significantly less than other hospitals.
The salary hikes, which will cost MRMC an estimated $5 million annually, will start just three months before voters must decide on a $65 million bond to subsidize the hospital. But most board members said the two issues were separate and offering salaries to attract the most skilled workers was the cost of doing business.
"We know the hospital is having (financial) difficulties," said board member Kulbir Ghumman, who then added that it would be "imprudent and shortsighted" not to consider the monetary needs of employees.
"I just don't see any alternative to it," he said.
Munroe Regional Medical Center is owned by the state-sanctioned Marion County Hospital District and overseen by seven trustees appointed by the County Commission. The seven trustees currently lease the not-for-profit hospital to Munroe Regional Health System, Inc., which is overseen by a 13-member board, some of whose members also are district trustees.
Board member Jon Kurtz, who cast the sole vote against the raises, said that instead of giving all hospital employees raises, the board should consider singling out the jobs the hospital is struggling to keep filled and hike those salaries.
"We live in a world where a lot of customers are not seeing raises, vendors are not seeing raises," he said.
Citing the November bond referendum, Kurtz said, "In light of things we're asking from the public, we need to think over (a few) things."
But Ghumman said there was no shortage of demand for health care workers, unlike other professions suffering because of the recession.
The publicly owned hospital has had money problems for the past several years and relies on its Wall Street investments to balance its books.
In addition to asking for tax support, hospital trustees are considering leasing MRMC to a private hospital company. The trustees are interviewing four health care companies interested in leasing the hospital.
Board member Brian O'Connor said that there should have been a plan to help offset the additional cost of the raises.
The salary hikes, which will not cover administrative or managerial employees, will cost about $750,000 for the remainder of the fiscal year. The raises each employee will receive has yet to be determined said Dan O'Connor, vice president of human resources.
Hospital CEO and President Steve Purves said he would compensate for the pay raises as much as possible through efficiencies. Denying employees raises was taking its toll, he said.
"We just can't be kicking this can down the road," Purves said.
Dan O'Connor said that nurses' salaries are 11 percent lower than those paid by other hospitals.
The hospital has a 7.5 percent employee vacancy rate, compared to a Florida hospital average of 4.9 percent.
Munroe's 2012 budget for salaries was $119 million, not including employee benefits. The 421-bed hospital also provides employees with a pension plan and matching 401(k) retirement fund.
Munroe's biggest competitor, Ocala Health System across the street, gives annual merit raises.
"We assess the local and regional labor market annually to ensure that our salary ranges and average rates of pay are competitive," wrote Ocala Health System spokeswoman Suzanne Santangelo in an email. Ocala Health System does not provide employees with a pension plan.