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Tending to Hospital Employees After the Joplin Tornado

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, October 10, 2011

“Then there is the economic side of it. One government agency said that if those 2,200 people had not kept their jobs, about 13,000 (other people in the community) would have lost their jobs because it takes that much in support for the healthcare system. It made sense from an economic perspective, for the community it made sense, from the continuity of healthcare services into the future it made sense.”

HLM: Would it not have been cheaper to lay off employees?

Britton: “Not in the long run. Those people would have had no choice but to go somewhere else to find a job. We are building a new hospital and when we open it back up we would have been spending enormous amounts of money to recruit that very talent back into the community. I would much rather have a resident professional medical community stay there and continue to deliver care and evolve with us and be part of dreaming the dream for the new community. So no, I’m not going to say that it would have cost less.”

HLM: How were you able to find that many jobs in such a short time?

Britton: “We started a program called talent sharing. We had enough Mercy facilities in the surrounding area that I’d hoped that many of [the employees] could find work there. I was also hoping that other hospitals in the area that were going to see some temporary growth in volume because of the displaced patients from St. John’s – that they wouldn’t want to staff up and recruit a workforce knowing that volume was eventually going to go back to St. John’s, and that they might be willing to use some of those resources to meet that temporary growth in demand, and they were.”

HLM: How does talent sharing work?

Britton: “The organization [that temporarily hires the Mercy employee] pays the hourly rate that they would for that position, and the Mercy coworker still keeps their original rate and benefits on our nickel and we bill and collect on the hourly rate at the other organizations. It helps offset but it doesn’t cover all the costs for that coworker.”

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