University Updates on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Workforce Realignment Plan Implementation

A Letter from MUSC President David J. Cole, M.D., FACS - April 6, 2020

Dear MUSC family,

I’m grateful for the many ways you have risen to the challenges of COVID-19. We have spent the past two months discussing, planning, preparing, projecting and implementing our response as best we can. We continue to refine our readiness daily. As much as we tried to avoid having to confront the same decisions facing other health systems in recent weeks, we find we also are not immune to the financial pressures and operational challenges related to this pandemic.

I won’t mince words here: We are encountering unprecedented and serious financial deficits generated by the rapidly evolving COVID-19 crisis. It is not intuitive to the average individual, but the massive demands and simultaneous health care delivery imbalances imposed by this emerging crisis have placed every health care system in the United States under significant financial duress – MUSC is no exception. This reality has resulted in the suspension of all major elective capital projects across the enterprise, the delay of all facility projects, a review and reduction in purchased services, an ongoing conversion of 80 percent of our ambulatory clinics to telehealth care delivery and a hiring freeze on all nonessential job openings across the organization. As a next step, the implementation of a workforce realignment plan was announced by MUSC Health leadership today. This plan affects every member of MUSC Health, from senior leadership and those receiving salaries to hourly employees, as we work to weather this together.

We are reviewing in detail what COVID-19 stimulus funds MUSC and MUSC Health might qualify for in the days ahead to alleviate some of the financial pressures mounting on the organization. There are no guarantees on the timing or amount of our portion of these funds. I can promise you that we are engaged in understanding eligibility, timing for distribution and the amount of funds we may receive. Additionally, we are actively engaging our local community and donors to help support all of us as we work to navigate back to normalcy as quickly as possible. We hope to know more soon.
There’s great sadness in sharing these words with you. I’m particularly concerned about the impact these incredibly hard decisions are having on individual MUSC team members and their families. I can assure you that these decisions, which were complex, difficult, and yes, imperfect, weigh heavily on all of MUSC’s leaders. I wish the reality we are confronting were a different one. I hope there is some small comfort in knowing that we will do all that we possibly can to ensure that such large-scale disruption to individuals’ lives, in and outside of MUSC, is not in vain and as short as possible.

It’s important to understand that these immediate actions are necessary to preserve our health system’s ability to meet the health care demands of this crisis, be viable as an enterprise in the near term and be able to recover successfully over the next several years as an enterprise. These are the driving forces behind these actions. It is also important to emphasize that at this time, frontline health care team members, who have already seen fewer work hours due to COVID-19 response, will not see any additional pay cuts or layoffs so that MUSC Health can continue to be prepared to face the public health crisis as it unfolds.

I am hopeful that the actions of the state, community and MUSC will result in a significant flattening of the curve. We are working day and night to push forward rapid testing capability, both locally and across South Carolina. We are also working on more specific models that will help us to plan for the future – one beyond the first COVID-19 wave. Once we can have reliable leading indicators that predict the impact of our efforts to flatten the curve in our community and so the actual size, duration and severity of the wave, we will be in a position to pivot towards the future. Importantly, we will also be able to start planning for a more specific timeframe around returning to some version of normalcy. This also means that when and wherever possible, we can more quickly restore our workforce as well as our enterprise strategic focus to lead health innovation for all the lives we touch.

Thank you for your sacrifice, understanding, and patience and for continuing to do what you can to flatten the curve.

Yours in service,

David J. Cole, M.D., FACS
MUSC president