Published on September 28, 2020

How One Health System Saved Hundreds of Jobs during Pandemic

Like most health systems across the globe, MidMichigan Health of Midland Michigan, faced its uncertainties head on in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis earlier this year.

Whether it was concerns of a shortage of supplies, influx of patients, or the need to reduce elective surgeries and outpatient procedures, the unknown of what was to come (and still is to come) was far too real for its leadership team. But, one area that would not - could not - falter was the impact to its workforce.

“The challenges we encountered in 2020 have been nothing short of unprecedented,” said Diane Postler-Slattery, Ph. D., FACHE, president and CEO, MidMichigan Health. “We forecasted a significant financial impact early on in the crisis. We carefully planned what needed to be done to focus on our patients and survive the pandemic that seems to have no end. The key to making that happen though was to retain our workforce. No matter what changes needed to be made in the short-term, we refused to have our employees lose their jobs to save our organization dollars.”

And that’s exactly what MidMichigan did.

As non-emergent services were temporarily suspended based on the Governor’s Executive Order, in addition to creative measures like redeploying staff to areas where they were needed, and providing training programs to fill gaps in schedules, the health system implemented a unique $22M pandemic “gifted” PTO (Paid Time Off) program for its employees.

As part of the program, full-time employees received an additional 120 hours of PTO while part-time employees received a prorated number of additional PTO hours. The initiative launched in April and allowed employees to receive PTO pay instead of being laid off without pay during times of staff reductions due to significantly low patient volumes. This decision resulted in a savings far greater than the bottom line.

“We knew employees could have reduced hours and others would have to remain at home to care for others. The offer of the additional time off saved our employees and kept them whole throughout the pandemic. It helped them in the long-term and that was the important difference,” continued Postler-Slattery. “We created flexibility where we could and took each day as it came, adjusting with the flow of the changing environment. We kept our employees whole so that when we returned to a new normal, our organization’s family would remain strong.”

With a workforce of more than 8,200 employees and other personnel, on a recent internal survey, the end result was that 87.5 percent of employees scored MidMichigan’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak as positive and overall employee retention improved.

Jodie Strom, C.S.F.A., C.S.T., C.S.P.D.T., GYN/robot coordinator and surgical first assistant, MidMichigan Health, is grateful for the pandemic PTO program.

“During the unsettling events that were unfolding earlier this year, MidMichigan Health’s pandemic PTO program came as a great relief,” said Strom. “Not only did it provide the assurance of a steady stream of income should we find our hours suddenly (and understandably) reduced, but it instilled a sense of confidence that our employer was truly looking out for our best interests, and let us know that we were valued as employees. I am very grateful that the pandemic PTO program was made available as I know not all heath care workers at other companies were so fortunate.”

As hospitals have moved toward a ‘new normal’ in medicine today while contending with COVID-19, MidMichigan Health has resumed its regular operations. Its seven medical centers, operating 722 licensed beds, all are functioning at full-capacity with increased safety measures in place.