Salary cuts for NRMC employees retroactively took effect

Published 12:12 am Tuesday, August 5, 2014

NATCHEZ Salary cuts at Natchez Regional Medical Center announced last week retroactively took effect July 27, to the surprise of some employees.

The hospital began sharing the news of the reductions — which range from 10 to 20 percent — beginning Friday.

A press release dated Friday did not state the reductions would begin with the July 27 pay period.

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Because the hospital opted to deliver the news through department managers and not a hospital-wide memo, employees heard the news at different times throughout the weekend and Monday, Chief Executive Officer Donny Rentfro said.

“We decided to disseminate the information starting with the managers because it’s difficult in a hospital operation that runs 24 hours a day to disseminate that to each employee in a personalized manner as possible,” he said. “We didn’t just want to share this very difficult information via an impersonal email.”

At least some of those who had been told about the salary reduction did not know it would be retroactive, though, according to an employee who did not want to be named.

Rentfro said the hospital did not intend to withhold that information.

“The decision to make that change wasn’t determined a week earlier,” Rentfro said. “But as part of the decision process, the (hospital) board determined to start the cost savings with that start date because that was the beginning of the pay period.”

The cuts, Rentfro said, are a last cost-saving opportunity ahead of the hospital’s projected sale next month.

All employees and managers will receive a 10-percent reduction in pay, while upper and some middle management levels will see a pay reduction of 20 percent.

Employees making less than $9 an hour will not be impacted, and no employee will drop below $9 an hour in the reduction.

The cuts are part of a comprehensive improvement plan to shore up the hospital’s finances to remain operational until the hospital is turned over to new ownership.

The county-owned hospital is in negotiations with Community Health Systems — the parent company of Natchez Community Hospital — for its purchase.

The cuts will remain in place until an expected sale date of Sept. 30.

Rentfro said the decision to reduce salaries was avoided as long as possible.

“We have gone through a whole litany of cost-saving opportunities, many of which have been implemented in various forms or fashions all with the intent they would not impact patient care, and I think we’ve been successful,” Rentfro said. “With the reduction, we didn’t want to do that any longer than we had to. You always try to minimize the time of impact on all the staff, and we looked at everything under the sun before doing this.”

Rentfro said the hospital would continue to aggressively monitor overtime and look for ways of saving in other areas.

Rentfro said he realized employees were unhappy about the salary reductions but also thanked the employees for their professionalism through the entire sale process.

“The folks that work at the hospital are absolutely professionals, and they all understand this is very short-term in nature,” Rentfro said. “They’re helping us stay the course.”