Texas health system CEO says staff COVID-19 vaccinations, 'hope' bonus well-received

As the U.S. COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues, one Texas health system has seen success with a multifaceted approach that includes offering employees a "hope bonus" if they are inoculated and meet other eligibility criteria.

Houston Methodist — an eight-hospital health system with about 26,000 employees — announced the $500 bonus in December, and eligible workers can expect to receive it in March.

Now, 13 days after the announcement, the health system's vaccine rollout is progressing nicely, President and CEO Marc Boom, MD, told Becker's Hospital Review in a phone interview Jan. 12. 

Houston Methodist has provided first doses to about 65 percent of employees and 91 percent of physicians, he said.

"That's really phenomenal, and that's a group who obviously has studied the medical literature, who advises patients all the time, and they're advising with their feet," said Dr. Boom, referring to the physician vaccination rate. "They're leading by example, getting the vaccine, and helping encourage others to do so as well. So far, I'm very pleased."

Overall, the health system had provided first doses to more than 38,000 people as of Jan. 11, including healthcare workers and patients older than 75. The health system has completed second doses for 10,700 employees and affiliated physicians, he said.

While the bonus may have encouraged some of these workers to get shots, it is more than an incentive to get vaccinated, according to Dr. Boom. 

He said the payment is meant "to provide some hope and to provide some thank you and reward, in addition to other bonuses we've paid for all the hard work this past year and then coming into this year. A bonus to give some hope as we're going through a difficult surge throughout Houston."

Houston Methodist will make exceptions for some workers who are not able to safely get the vaccine. It also will have eligibility criteria for the bonus based on number of hours worked during the pandemic. For example, a part-time employee may receive a smaller bonus. 

Dr. Boom said the health system is ironing out bonus details while listening to questions and concerns from employees and others about the vaccinations, and he is glad Houston Methodist is offering the payments. 

"It sends the right message in terms of our focus on patients at the center of everything we do. It's consistent with our long-standing culture that puts the patient at the center and that says we're going to be the safest hospital system on the planet. It protects each other as employees. It is very consistent with our values," he said.

He also emphasized that the bonus is only one part of a multifaceted plan to accelerate vaccination rates. Other parts of this plan include serving as one of the vaccine hubs in the Greater Houston region that will continue to help vaccinate front-line healthcare workers, residents of long-term care facilities and people older than age 65 or with a chronic medical conditions that put them at increased risk for severe illness from the virus.

Read more about the state's vaccination efforts here.  

 

More articles on compensation:
Why pay for public hospital CEOs is kept secret in Indiana
Advocate Aurora to give $66M in employee bonuses
Denver Health suspends executive bonuses

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