NCH Healthcare outsourcing 224 employees

Walter Tester, right, Director of Facilities and Construction for NCH, walks on the roof of the NCH North Naples Hospital at the end of the workday on Wednesday afternoon. NCH is in the process of building out its fifth and sixth floors at the North Naples Hospital this summer. The multi-million dollar project will be done this fall and will be outfitted with 'smart technology', where patient rooms will have the latest technology to actively engage the patient in his or her treatment and provide better safeguards against errors and injuries. Tristan Spinski/Staff

Photo by TRISTAN SPINSKI // Buy this photo

Walter Tester, right, Director of Facilities and Construction for NCH, walks on the roof of the NCH North Naples Hospital at the end of the workday on Wednesday afternoon. NCH is in the process of building out its fifth and sixth floors at the North Naples Hospital this summer. The multi-million dollar project will be done this fall and will be outfitted with "smart technology", where patient rooms will have the latest technology to actively engage the patient in his or her treatment and provide better safeguards against errors and injuries. Tristan Spinski/Staff

The NCH Healthcare System is outsourcing 224 employees who work in food service and housekeeping Oct. 1, say hospital officials.

NCH has signed an agreement with Sodexo, headquartered in Gaithersburg, Md., to take over the employment of 114 workers in food service and 110 employees in housekeeping, said Michele Thoman, chief nursing officer for NCH.

For the past eight years, Sodexo has provided on-site management oversight of the two departments at NCH's Downtown Naples Hospital and North Naples Hospital.

Outsourcing the employees enables the hospital system to focus on patient care as the healthcare industry faces declining reimbursement from the federal government for Medicare, increasing overhead costs and other challenges. Hospitals nationwide are being forced to operate more efficiently, she said.

"Sodexo has been our partner in providing housekeeping services and food services. They have an on-site management team. Those managers have always been Sodexo employees," she said. "The difference is the employees they are managing will now become Sodexo employees."

The agreement with Sodexo stipulates that the outsourced employees will receive the same pay and benefits with Sodexo as they did with NCH.

"They will retain their original hire date," she said. "They will have the same hour wage rate, in addition all shift and holiday differentials will remain the same."

Thoman said she did not have an estimate of how much money NCH is projecting to save.

NCH management is not presently looking at any other outsourcing moves, she added.

Dr. Allen Weiss, president and chief executive officer of NCH, was unavailable for comment.

All of the employees affected were told Tuesday afternoon at the same time at the two hospitals, Thoman said.

Currently, NCH has 3,800 employees during the off season and that increases to around 4,000 employees during the busier winter months.

Hospitals have been outsourcing jobs and employees in billing, medical records storage, physical therapy and some clinical services in a cost crunch move to reduce overhead, salaries and benefits.

For instance, the number of hospitals that turned over accounts receivables to outside companies increased nearly 14 percent from 211 hospitals in 2008 to 240 hospitals the following year, according to Modern Healthcare's annual outsourcing survey that year. Another area of outsourcing is equipment management.

Last December, NCH did not renew its contract with Naples Radiologists, the original group of radiologists formed in 1972 in the community. Instead, NCH signed a contract for remote teleradiology services with Ohio-based Radisphere. In August, Radisphere announced three radiologists from its group would provide on-site services at NCH's hospitals.

Financially strapped Jackson Health System in Miami announced in August that it will consider outsourcing staffing, including physicians, in its emergency rooms.

The American Hospital Association did not have statistics readily available Wednesday about outsourcing of clinical and nonclinical jobs or employees.

NCH has been in talks with Sodexo about taking over the hourly workers in the two hospital departments for the past year, Thoman said. The change required approval from the NCH board of trustees.

"This is their expertise, to turn it over to them makes sense for us," Thoman said.

Officials with Sodexo could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The company has operations in 80 countries with 413,000 employees, according to its website. In the United States, Sodexo has 125,000 employees at 6,000 sites and serves 10 million consumers daily.

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