St. Charles no longer seeks repayment from overpaid employees

Bend, Ore.-based St. Charles Health System will no longer seek repayment from employees of more than $2 million it said they received in overpayments due to a December ransomware attack on human resources management company Ultimate Kronos Group, according to a health system statement shared with Becker's Aug. 26.

St. Charles previously asked 2,358 employees to pay back the money, citing the Kronos attack and resulting timecard data issues.

Now, amid frustrations and confusion from workers related to information and tools provided to verify overpayment amounts, St. Charles "will no longer seek repayment of these funds from caregivers. Rather, we hope that those of you who know you were overpaid will consider making a donation in that same amount to the St. Charles Cares (caregiver assistance fund) of the St. Charles Foundation," Steve Gordon, MD, interim St. Charles president and CEO, told employees in a statement.

Dr. Gordon also said the health system intends to pursue damages from Kronos and, if successful, will match all employee donations to the fund.

He added that the more than 100 workers who have already paid back the overpayment amount can contact the payroll team directly by Oct. 14 if they no longer wish to make the repayment.

More than 300 workers have completed the paperwork to start the repayment process, but the payroll team won't process those agreements, he said.

"This situation has also brought to light a number of issues around timecard practices and accountability. Going forward, you will see a strong focus on improvement in this area," Dr. Gordon told employees.

Members of the Oregon Nurses Association and Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals at St. Charles praised the health system's change of course in a news release shared with Becker's.  

The unions, which represent about 1,200 front-line nurses working at St. Charles facilities in Central Oregon, had indicated a lack of confidence in the health system's accounting and payroll practices, via a petition drive.

"It is gratifying to know that the voices of hundreds of nurses and allied healthcare workers from across the St. Charles system have finally been heard," union members said in an Aug. 26 release. "With the distraction of the payroll crisis behind us, we are eager to turn our attention back to what we can do to improve patient care and address critical issues including safe staffing, rest and meal breaks, recruitment and retention of qualified staff, and providing high-quality patient care for everyone in our communities."

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