The West Park Hospital Board voted last Wednesday to approve back pay for Cody Regional Health providers and senior staff who had taken pay cuts at the height of the shutdown due to COVID-19.
The move was included in the new budget for the year. CEO Doug McMillan said he declined the back pay.
Other members of the exempt staff, which include department directors and senior leadership at the hospital, also received back pay for their temporary salary reductions, said Dick Smith, human resources officer.
Smith said the plan was always to provide back pay to those who had taken pay cuts but he didn’t realize it would be so soon. After looking through its finances, the hospital realized 2-3 weeks ago it would be able to provide the back pay right away.
That happened to correspond with the July 22 board meeting.
Back pay for the nonprovider staff did not require board approval, only the approval of hospital administration.
Smith also said should the COVID-19 growth in the county continue, the decision to give the back payments now likely would not affect future hospital operations because so many of the new plans and procedures were already in place.
“We spent a lot of financial resources getting more ventilators, (personal protective equipment), setting up the COVID hotline and viral screening unit,” Smith said. “If a COVID surge happened that affected our operations we would be ready. We’re in a much better position, resource-wise.”
In an unrelated decision, Cody Regional Health laid off five people the same day the back pay was announced. Smith said it was not planned that way and wanted to stress that though it may look bad from the outside, the decisions were unrelated.
“Directors are encouraged to manage their departments as efficiently as possible,” Smith said. “It’s a department-by-department process. Each department looks at staffing.”
Smith said he does not like losing employees and the layoffs of the five employees in the Patient Finance department were not a reflection of their performance.
“It’s the worst part of my job,” Smith said of the layoffs. “It is the least desirable strategy because it impacts lives and families.”