NCH gives 1.5 percent bonuses this year instead of raises as profits decline

— NCH Healthcare System employees won’t be out on a shopping spree later this fall.

With the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year for the hospital system, NCH board of directors decided against raises for all employees. Instead, employees will get bonuses of 1.5 percent.

The across-the-board bonuses will be paid to all employees in good standing and distributed later this fall after completion of a full-year audit.

“We just want to be prudent as we have been due to the economic environment and health-care environment,” said Dr. Allen Weiss, president and chief executive officer of NCH.

NCH currrently has 3,200 employees at its two hospitals, NCH Downtown Naples and NCH North Naples, and affiliated outpatient facilities.

Weiss said the expectation is NCH’s profit for the fiscal year ending Sept. 31, 2009 will be $500,000 to $1 million but they are waiting for the audit.

For the start of fiscal 2009, employees received a 2 percent raise and no bonuses, he said. The hospital system at the close of 2008 had a profit of $12.5 million, he said.

This year, NCH is making changes to its education assistance to employees. Rather than paying for tuition when they are hired, they must be an employee for one year before NCH picks up the tab to Florida Gulf Coast University or Edison College, he said.

“That’s just for new employees. Current employees still have the benefit and don’t have to wait,” he said.

In addition, NCH no longer pays for the textbooks for employees enrolled in educational programs.

Weiss said there was no fixed amount targeted for reducing expenses.

“We are very stable and want to stay that way,” he said. “Fifty percent of hospitals (nationwide) are losing significant amounts of money.

He said no layoffs are planned and turnover is low, as would be expected, as people hold on to their jobs in a bad economy. Meanwhile, the system is gearing up for season and six new nurses started this past week and another handful started the week before.

Ann Andersen, a registered nurse in the emergency room at NCH North Naples Hospital who is active in a union-organizing campaign among nurses, said employees are not happy with the bonuses because everybody has had to work harder, with reduced staffing, but patient visits have been up.

“It seems like they are chipping away at the 10 percent (raises) we got in 2007,” she said. “It’s been a long summer. Everybody is pretty much disgusted. Clearly if admissions are up, patients are up and staff is down, financially you are doing pretty good.”

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