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Beth Israel pares its plan for layoffs

Elizabeth Cooney / March 25, 2009
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Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center will lay off 140 or fewer employees, using a combination of delayed raises, a temporary reduction in benefits, and donations from department heads to avoid wider job losses.

Paul Levy, the hospital's chief executive, revealed the decision in an e-mail message to staff Monday that he posted yesterday on his blog, Running a Hospital. The move follows weeks of meetings and online discussions seeking ways to preserve many of the 600 jobs initially endangered by a $20 million budget shortfall. Like many hospitals, Beth Israel Deaconess is seeing fewer patients and lower payments from government programs.

Last week, Levy said in a memo there would be no more than 150 layoffs. The steps to save money affect the accrual of paid time off, retirement fund matching, and raises. An early retirement plan will be offered to employees 62 and older who have at least three years of service. Donations will help, too, Levy said. The $350,000 in funds pledged by 13 department chiefs last week has saved about 10 jobs. He and his wife vowed to personally match $1 for every gift of $10 through April 10.

"Given these measures, I hope that the new layoff figure of 140 people will go down over the next couple of weeks. I'd like to see it drop considerably," he wrote. "We will wait until the last possible moment to issue notices of termination so that we can evaluate the effect of the early retirement and philanthropic initiatives."

People earning the least - housekeepers, patient transporters, and food service workers, for example - will be exempt from salary cuts and will receive their scheduled 3 percent raises this year. Levy said he anticipates two years without pay increases for other staffers.

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