5 of the Biggest Hospital Employment Trends in 2010

Here are five significant trends that affected hospital employment in 2010.

1. Hospitals cut jobs. Hospitals and health systems continued to cut positions in 2010, citing decreased volumes and reimbursement. UMass Memorial Care in Worcester, Mass., announced plans to eliminate 350 jobs or nearly 2.6 percent of its workforce in October, while Cleveland Clinic expected to cut nearly 200 employees in administrative and clinical positions at the beginning of December. Alan Aviles, president of the 11-hospital Health and Hospitals Corporation in New York City, announced plans to cut its public workforce by 2,600 due to budget cuts.

Salinas Valley (Calif.) Memorial Hospital announced a layoff of up to 120 hospital workers in early December. The layoffs included 40 nurses and also affected unit assistants, clerical works and others. Healthcare job growth stayed below 2 percent throughout 2009 and 2010, significantly lower than rates in previous years, according to the Los Angeles Times.

2. Hospital employees went on strike.
Nurses and other hospital employees across the country went on strike throughout 2010, as contract negotiations between unions and hospitals continued without coming to agreement. Around 1,600 nurses at HCA-owned West Hills Hospital and Medical Center in Los Angeles, Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center in Thousand Oakes, Calif., and Riverside (Calif.) Community Hospital announced plans for a five-day strike beginning on Dec. 23, as SEIU Local 121RN and the hospitals found themselves unable to agree on nurse-to-patient staffing ratios. Around 340 service workers at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center in Springfield, Ore., went on strike in November for 24 hours, following contention in contract negotiations over proposed changes to wages and benefits.

Harlem Hospital in New York City averted a planned 150-physician strike when it agreed to a new contract on Dec. 16, preventing the transfer of neurosurgery and rehabilitation departments to other hospitals and ensuring that no departments and divisions would be cut.

3. Executive compensation was questioned. As hospitals suffered from slashed budgets and declining volume, employees and the public questioned high executive salaries that seemed incongruous with hospital finances. California Attorney General Jerry Brown announced plans in mid-September to review local government salaries of more than $300,000 and seek legislative reform that would cap public salaries and eliminate pension loopholes, citing as an example the $800,000 in annual compensation paid to the chief administrator of a local hospital. University of California Los Angeles regents faced criticism in September for boosting the annual compensation of UCLA top executive David Feinberg, MD, by $410,000, while the university simultaneously raised employee contributions to its badly underfunded retirement plans.

Hospitals and health systems responded to salary attacks by defending the complicated nature of the executive positions. Camera Coyle, president and CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association, responded in September to criticisms of the high salaries of Baltimore non-profit hospital CEOs, who received seven-figure salaries, country club memberships and tax and financial planning services as part of total compensation. She argued the hospital leaders provide more than 88,000 Maryland jobs, make healthcare available 24 hours a day and manage the uncertainties of healthcare reform, among other weighty responsibilities.

4. More physicians considered hospital employment. According to a 2010 Physicians Foundation Survey, only 26 percent of physicians plan to continue practicing as they have been for the next three years, and many are considering moves to other types of work or retirement. In 2010, 11 percent of physicians were planning to take hospital jobs over the next several years. A survey from the Medical Group Management Association found that 55 percent of practices that responded to its questionnaire were hospital-owned, compared to 50 percent in 2009 and 30 percent in 2003.

Independent physicians might consider the move to hospital employment for various reasons, including a more predictable income and case volume, better hospital reimbursements and a better work-life balance.

5. Hospitals decided to stop hiring smokers. More hospitals decided in 2010 to stop smokers from working at their facilities, according to various reports. Anna Jacques Hospital in Newburyport, Mass., started hiring only non-smokers on Thursday, Nov. 25. The ban is part of a three-step plan. Last year employees were banned from smoking on hospital property, and next year the ban that will apply to patients and visitors as well. Starting at the beginning of the New Year, smokers need not apply at Saint Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Applicants will be tested for nicotine as part of a pre-employment screening. The hospital website's "Current Openings" page now includes the nicotine-free hiring policy, to go into effect on Jan. 1. The policy will not affect current employees.

ProMedica Health System, based in Toledo, Ohio, will also stop hiring smokers effective Jan. 1, 2011. If applicants declare they do not use tobacco but their post-offer screening is positive, they will not be hired. Applicants who declare tobacco use, as well as those who do not pass the screening, may reapply for a position after 90 days.

Read more on hospital employment:

-Michigan's Beaumont Hospitals Continues to Cut Jobs, Reorganize

-Healthcare Hiring Increases Slightly

-Physician Employment and Beyond: The Current State of Physician Integration

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