Originally created 10/09/01

MCG Health seeks worker rules change



About one in five Medical College of Georgia Hospital employees has left since MCG Health Inc. took over, many through early retirement. Several with 10 years or more tenure chose to stay under the college's retirement and benefit program but have MCG Health actually pay for it. Now MCG Health is asking that even those employees come under its compensation rules.

MCG and MCG Health will ask a University System of Georgia committee today to approve a pilot program that would allow MCG Health to:

Change the classification of an employee at any time, rather than annually, and change compensation to respond to the market

Give performance-based raises that are also based on the hospital's financial performance

Stipulate that the bonuses do not raise an employee's base annual salary

Many of the 704 "leased" employees with long-term tenure chose to stay because of the retirement package, which will be calculated using the two highest salary years. The bonus system should not affect that, said J. Michael Ash, the senior vice president for administration and finance at MCG.

"It should not be a detriment," Dr. Ash said.

The school and hospital administration in proposing the program offer it as a potential model for employee incentives for the rest of the university system.

Some leased employees and their colleagues have called to voice anonymous complaints about bias against them. The Augusta Chronicle has attempted to independently verify the treatment of leased employees through a computer comparison of MCG Health and MCG employee records.

After several months of first working to obtain the records and then entering and refining them in a database, it appears the records are too different to allow a comparison. Not only is the form of the records different, but also the way the names are entered is different.

For instance, MCG employees are listed by the legal name on their Social Security card while MCG Health employees appear to be listed by the name they go by, said Camille Morgan, the director of information services at MCG, who is actually listed as "Catherine." Others are listed with a middle initial in one list but not in another.

Such differences would make analysis impossible, Mrs. Morgan said.

"If there is any small difference - an extra space, an extra character - it's not going to match up," she said.

According to an MCG Health report presented in August to its board, there was a 19 percent turnover from July 1, 2000, to June 30, 2001, compared with 7 percent the year before. But MCG President Daniel W. Rahn, a member of MCG Health's board, said it should be noted that the turnover figure also includes participants in the early-retirement program.

By comparison, University Hospital is expecting a 13 percent turnover rate this year, spokeswoman Rebecca Sylvester said.

Looking at nurses, MCG Health turned over 14 percent of its registered nurses, which is actually better than the regional average of 18 percent, said Karen Pollard, the vice president of strategic planning and marketing for University HealthSystem Consortium in Chicago, which tracks academic medical centers. By comparison, University turned over slightly less than 11 percent of its registered nurses, Mrs. Sylvester said.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tomc@augustachronicle.com.