Local News

Furloughs could prove costly to UNC Healthcare

Posted May 28, 2009

— UNC Healthcare officials are scrambling to find ways to furlough physicians, nurses and other workers under budget-cutting measures ordered by Gov. Beverly Perdue.

Perdue last month said all state workers needed to take a 0.5 percent pay cut to help balance the state budget, and workers will take 10 extra hours off in exchange for the cut.

UNC Hospitals sign UNC has to furlough health workers

"We are all state employees," said Karen McCall, UNC Healthcare vice president for public affairs and marketing. "It's going to be expensive for us."

McCall said the hospitals and clinics the health system operates will need to pay overtime to workers to cover for employees on furlough.

Nurse Pebbles Elsasser said the furloughs will impact patient care.

"There's always going to be sick people. There's always going to be that car accident. There is always going to be that trauma," Elsasser said. "It has to be a lot of rearranging to schedules to give these people their 10 hours."

The health system's financial challenges go beyond furloughs.

State money usually helps offset the losses the system sustains by treating low-income and uninsured patients. The system received $46 million from the state's general fund last year for charity care and graduate education.

"There's a lot of people that can't pay now," McCall said, adding that officials aren't sure how much money they'll get in the upcoming state budget to offset uncompensated care.

UNC Healthcare projects $300 million in uncompensated care next year, up from $270 million this year and $155 million in 2005.

Elsasser said the state's budget woes have become very personal. Her husband is looking for a job and her daughter is recovering from brain surgery, so any cut to her pay hurts.

"These are human beings. It's not just money," she said. "It's almost like you go to your child and you say, 'Guess what? Would you rather have your medication so that you can continue to live every day, or would you rather eat, or do I have gas money to get to work?'

"It feels like we are being discriminated (against)," she said. "The state employees are taking the burden of this for everyone."


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  • uncpharmer Jun 2, 2009

    What I don't understand is how all employees at UNC are being furloughed even if they are privately funded through grants. The grant money is earmarked for equipment, salaries, etc. for that employee and cannot go anywhere else. So where is this money going? I think the biotech, pharmaceutical, etc. companies that provide these grants need to lodge a complaint.

    Also another example of the furlough that doesn't make any sense. A part-time unchealthcare employee that makes $50/hr doesn't get benefits so no paid time off. However, their base salary is calculated at $25,000, which means $125 will be taken out of their paycheck. But because they don't get PTO, they get the equivalent of the PTO added to their first check in July. Does that mean they will be making money off of the furlough (-$125 + $500 = $375)?

  • deal5 May 29, 2009

    I'm not a CPA but I can do math. Let's suppose a UNC hospital worker is making $20/hour, 40 hours/week, 52 weeks/year. 20x40x52=$41,600 annual salary (before taxes). 0.5% of that is $208, which is what will be taken from this person's salary before June 30th. In return, this person gets 10 hours of paid time off. 10 x $20 (hourly rate) = $200. So, after all the manipulating, the state of NC nets a whopping $8.00 from this person. And, as has been previously pointed out, others may potentially incur overtime to cover for this person's absence. Where's the saving??? Where's the sense?? Who is doing the calculations here??

  • happymom May 29, 2009

    " How's that "hopey changey" think working for ya?
    Tired Of Excuses"

    Sorry, dude. This problem was created PRIOR to Obama. How's that blamey-whiny thing working for ya?

    I don't like the way Perdue is handling this, but Obama has nothing to do with it. Blame the previous Prez for our country's financial woes (remember that the recession started prior to Jan 20th).

  • fuzzmom May 29, 2009

    Since when does paying OT save money? This makes us better off financially how????

  • scientistjo May 29, 2009

    "Got to pay for the Wars! What a waste!"

    I agree, Hatchcover. Bad health care and poorly educated children are worth it, as long as we continue to bomb innocent people around the world. (sarcasm)

  • Hatchcover May 29, 2009

    Got to pay for the Wars! What a waste!

  • wcharm May 28, 2009

    I beg to differ that the state workers are bearing the burden for everyone else. I don't feel like the healthcare workers or the school personel should be put into this. First because everyone needs healthcare and as far as the school personel as I was always told my children need to be in class this many days out of 180 days or i would go to jail. Apparantly times have changed since they are trying to shorten the school year. What happened to the money from the lottery? Getting on a rant because the state workers are not the only ones carrying the burden! All of us are!! I now travel 130 miles round trip instead of 20 miles round trip to get to work so there are many people that are carrying the burden. We all need to pray.

  • Tired Of Excuses May 28, 2009

    ..by the way.
    How's that "hopey changey" think working for ya?

  • Tired Of Excuses May 28, 2009

    When are state employees going to stand up and say "ENOUGH"? The state gives money to those here illegally to support their "anchor babies" and to social programs that enable people to abuse the system and not work. Now the state is going to TAKE money from hard working people in order to support those who don't want to work or who have no legal right to be here??

  • turtledove May 28, 2009

    "UNC needs to bring in students with no pay to cover this little amount of time regular paid employees are off - no need to pay anyone overtime."-- Tax Man

    Tax Man you are kidding right? These are doctors and nurses we are talking about. Would you want a student taking care of your loved one?