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Where can hospitals save money, and what does baseball have to do with it?

March 19, 2009
by kate
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It’s terrible that hospitals are being forced to take certain actions to survive in these economic times, like not matching 401K plans and freezing raises. But what about partnerships with Major League teams — should CEOs be forced to sever those ties? The Red Sox are a ratings juggernaut, even beyond New England. Check out the post from Wall Street Journal Health Blog and leave your comments:

Boston Hospital Cuts Budget, But Won’t Give Up Red Sox

Lots of companies are trying to find ways to save money amid the recession. Boston hospital Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is in that position, too — and it’s going about the process in an usual way. The hospital’s CEO, Paul Levy, is getting feedback from staff and airing out cost-savings ideas on his blog.

Levy put out a post yesterday on how the hospital can find savings as it braces for a $20 million operating loss this fiscal year. Some will come from job cuts, but Levy says layoffs that had been expected to number 600 now look more like 150, thanks to some alternative ideas.

Some highlights of his cost-savings list: To save $3.5 million this year, temporarily discontinue the matching funds the hospital provides for 401(k) and 403(b) retirement plans. Withhold an annual 3% salary increase for those due to get it starting on April 1, but exempting lower-paid employees. Savings this year would be $2.4 million. For another $1.4 million, senior executives, including Levy, will take voluntary pay cuts. To save $100,000, eliminate this year’s barbecue for employees, economize on other events and cut most hospital reimbursements for cell phones and BlackBerries.

Levy, meanwhile, explained why he didn’t want to go with certain suggestions employees made. For instance, “I am loathe to eliminate tuition reimbursement because I do not want to abandon our goal of providing professional advancement for people.”

Levy also gave the thumbs-down to severing a relationship Beth Deaconess has with the Boston Red Sox as the team’s “official hospital.” Aside from being a contractual obligation, “our name is seen and heard by 2 million fans per year at Fenway Park and millions more on radio and television during the games,” Levy writes. “We could never afford to buy that kind of visibility with traditional advertising.”

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