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MUSCMedical LinksCharleston LinksArchivesCatalyst AdvertisersSeminars and EventsResearch StudiesPublic RelationsResearch GrantsMUSC home pageCommunity HappeningsCampus NewsApplause


MUSC Rumor Mill separates fact from fiction

Bee Street parking
In June, employees received an e-mail from Stuart Smith stating the following: In an effort to recognize the competitiveness of the local health care market, MUSC medical center is pleased to be able to offer discounted parking for its employees who are in the MUSC parking system. When the Bee Street Garage opens in the fall, medical center employees who park in the MUSC parking system will see their parking rate lowered by one-half the routine charge (example: if the normal rate is $55 per month, you will only pay $27.50 per month). Recently I was offered a spot in the new Bee Street Garage, but the price quoted to me was $55 a month, not $27.50. Which is correct?
Answer: There is no change in the e-mail statement that Stuart Smith distributed last June. Medical center employees who park in the MUSC parking system will see their parking rates lowered by one-half the routine charge. This should be reflected in the check employees receive Nov. 5.

Medical center financial concerns, morale issues
The Rumor Mill has received a number of rumors dealing with the financial issues of the medical center and related concerns such as staffing and patient care. These issues are addressed below.
Answer: In recent weeks there has been considerable focus on addressing nursing staffing to match the staffing levels with patient care needs. Staffing levels sought are aligned with best practices for high quality care. Cost-containment efforts are not being focused only on clinical staffing. Currently, work is under way to focus on all opportunities for cost containment throughout the medical center, including administrative and support areas. Work is being done to standardize various functions and achieve economies of scale. Some staff may be reassigned to other areas needing help. Travel nurses will be replaced with regular employees. Cost-savings opportunities related to supplies and contracts are being carefully examined. Work is also under way to expand patient capacity by freeing up some space in Ashley River Tower for patients currently cared for in University Hospital (UH). Also, as renovation is completed in UH, additional beds will come on line. By methodically investigating and implementing cost containment methods, growing patient capacity and by assigning staff to areas of need, employment opportunities and growth will be preserved. The medical center will emerge as a stronger organization. Additional information will be issued in the days and weeks ahead.

Lunch breaks
Are managers allowed to tell their employees they cannot leave the office for their lunch breaks?
Answer: HR Policy 29 states that employees who work a shift of at least five hours will have a 30-minute meal period automatically deducted. The authority strictly adheres to issues involving the Fair Labor Standards ACT including the proper payment to employees who work through their assigned lunch period. In order to be paid properly, employees who work during a lunch period should follow departmental procedures regarding authorization.

Can you clarify MUHA’s policy on nepotism? There is a father/daughter combo working in our unit.
Answer: HR Nepotism Policy # 7 states that employees may not supervise a family member or serve in the chain of command concerning employment matters of a family member. This policy is located on the medical center intranet. For information, contact  MUHA Human Resources at 792-7908.

Fire alarm drill at ART
I’ve heard the fire alarm drill at ART. Why does this have to occur at 6:30 a.m. during change of shift? Answer: Alarms always disrupt patient care by the noise of the alarm and the movement of staff in response. Whether real or a drill, they can be annoying to areas not impacted by the alarm. We don’t pick shift changes or target any specific time to test. The sheer number of tests required means we will be testing at all hours of the day, night and weekends. The medical center has literally thousands of devices that require testing and monitoring so that when the need comes, our patients, visitors, and staff will be safe and protected. Many of the tests are required by Joint Commission, both to train teams to respond and to actually test the operation of the alarm device, to hear the sound and see the strobes. In recent months, ART testing has been more frequent, because it is a new building and initial testing requirements are large in number. That higher than normal frequency of ART testing is now tapering off.

Benefit security
How safe is our retirement plan, life insurance, etc., in light of recent national financial events?
Answer: Many of you are probably concerned about the current situation in the financial markets and how this may affect your retirement benefits. One of the advantages that pension plans like the South Carolina Retirement System (SCRS) or the Police Officers Retirement System (PORS) have over 401k type plans is that individual participants do not shoulder the investment risk. This is the responsibility of the S.C. Retirement System. SCRS has demonstrated an ability to prudently manage its assets during the last 60 years and it does this by employing very long-term investment time horizons. So, while the financial markets are currently experiencing significant volatility, the assets of the retirement systems are invested in a broadly diversified manner to help mitigate risks. Furthermore, as a member of the SCRS or the PORS, your benefits are protected, because they are defined by state statute and are not dependent on an individual account balance or investment returns.

Parking for Roper?
I heard that about 700 county garage spots are being moved to Bee Street Garage to make room for 700 Roper employee spots. I’ve been on the county garage waiting list for years and I think I should be offered a spot before a Roper employee.
Answer: To directly address your question, no MUSC employees are being moved out of the Courtenay garage to make room for Roper. However, 160 MUSC students are being moved to the Bee Street Garage. This will make more room in the Courtenay garage for additional parking support needed for ART.

I heard that because nurses were being sent home for low census they would lose their insurance benefits for not meeting their hours. Is this true?
Answer: Eligibility to receive state insurance benefits at the medical center is extended to those employees who are formally scheduled to work at least 30 hours per week (60 each pay period) in a permanent position. If, due to low census, an employee doesn’t work the minimum 60 hours in a given pay period, he or she will generally be given the option to either use paid time off or take the time as leave without pay. In either situation, the employee’s formally-scheduled hours have not been changed and they would therefore retain their benefits eligibility status.

Administrative pay raises
There is a rumor that administration, in spite of MUSC's rather dire circumstances, are getting a 10 percent raise.
Answer: Administrators will not get a raise.

Merit raises
Is it true that MUSC/MUHA administrators took a dinner cruise  after the announcement that there would be no merit raises?
Answer: This is not true. The truth is that Jerry Reves, M.D., dean, College of Medicine, wanted to thank nine staff members who had helped organize the recent universitywide Leadership Development Institute. In an effort to show his appreciation for their hard work, he invited them for a brief harbor cruise after work on his boat at his own expense. This was an effort by the dean to thank this institutionwide group for their work on a successful project.

Campaign contributions
MUSC paid the Linda Ketner for Congress campaign $8,300  per Congresspedia Web page. She is on the board of directors for Hollings Cancer Center. Why, when the MUSC is short on funds as per Stuart Smith, are funds being given to campaigns? Is this a conflict of interest?
Answer: MUSC does not make contributions to political campaigns. The Web site you refer to indicates that contributions are grouped according to the place of employment of the contributor. In this case, contributions attributed to MUSC are actually from individuals who work at MUSC who have contributed their personal funds to this campaign. While this candidate was on one of our advisory boards at one time, she no longer is on that board.

Hospital closing
I heard that in the near future, there is the possibility that MUSC will have to close its doors and no longer function as a hospital. Granted I do not expect this to happen in the next few weeks nor months, but I would like to know if this could very much happen. I know you do not want to frighten employees, students, etc... however I feel we should at least be prepared. A group in the cafeteria today said MUSC has enough money to “pay the bills” for two more months. After that, payroll will not be met.
Answer: MUSC Medical Center will continue to keep its doors open and fulfill the mission.  It is true that we are currently dealing with difficult financial challenges, similar to other hospitals. We are implementing a number of initiatives for cost control and operational efficiency. Understandably some initiatives have not or will not be well received. We hope to do a better job in communicating that what’s good for the financial success of the organization is good for its employees. While we are having financial challenges now, the leadership team is convinced that we will become a stronger organization as a result of our current cost control efforts. To answer your question, you can expect that with the support of everyone we will successfully resolve our financial issues and thrive in the future.

Rumor Mill
How often do you post answers to the rumor mill? I find the information  helpful.
Answer: Answers are posted as quickly as possible after a response is received by the Rumor Mill. There is not a specific schedule for posting answers.

Medical spending account
What happens with medical spending account money? I heard that when someone tried to cash their refund check from MUSC it bounced.
Answer: After contributions to medical spending accounts are deducted from employees’ pay checks, they are then sent to the company contracted by the state to manage the program, FBMC. Claims are then processed through FBMC who cuts the checks and either mails them or direct deposits them to the claimants’ bank accounts. Both EIP (the state insurance agency) and FBMC have been notified about this and we appreciate your bringing it to our attention along with the fact that they made good on the check. While FBMC was apologetic about the inconvenience this caused, they have assured us that this was a function of their accounting system rather than their inability to pay claims. Essentially, they transmit a list of claimants to be paid including an authorization to pay only the aggregate amount of all claims. In this case, there was an administrative error resulting in the aggregate amount being less than the total of all claims.

Layoffs in January
I heard that there are going to be layoffs in January and others will be asked to cut back to 32 hours and start coming in later and leave early so  we could have some kind of coverage.
Answer: A number of cost savings initiatives are underway. You may have seen President Ray Greenberg’s comments in a recent Post & Courier article indicating a principle driving force in decision making is to protect jobs, but we do not have a crystal ball. At this time we are focusing upon improvements in operational efficiency, attrition and reassignment of staff resources as the mechanisms to reduce and control costs. A number of initiatives are also under way to enhance revenue.

State or not
I work  in Ashley River Tower  and was wondering if MUSC is considered a state hospital or not. My reason for this is that I don't receive full state benefits.
Answer: For purposes of insurance and retirement benefits, the medical center is a state agency.

Leadership Development Institute (LDI)
Given the financial status of MUSC, will MUHA be holding the November LDI  for the leadership group?
Answer: In an effort to reduce costs, the November LDI for MUHA will be held on the MUSC campus with an abbreviated schedule.

Do you anticipate that payroll will be only partial as the university has financial problems?
Answer: There is no plan to reduce worked hours at this time. MUHA’s primary focus is to preserve employment. However, MUHA will need to continue to explore cost-cutting opportunities, and reduction of hours worked could be a consideration for some areas.

Financial crisis
How can we afford a new building, a 14,000-square-foot building (Drug Discovery Building) when there is a hiring freeze and other budgets cuts around MUSC?
Answer: Both the Drug Discovery building and the Bio-Engineering building have been funded by state and federal dollars that were specifically designated for construction of these two research facilities. The state’s other research universities, Clemson and University of South Carolina, also received like funding for their capital expenditures related to research. These capital dollars can only be used for the sole purpose described above. They cannot be used by MUSC or MUHA for operating expenditures.

Education reimbursement
I am a registered nurse, and recently a new rumor circulated our floor. The rumor is that the hospital will no longer pay for education. Is this rumor true?
Answer: Currently, the medical center administrative team is examining all opportunities to reduce costs and protect employment. Special bonus and incentive plans are being methodically examined and prioritized. No firm decisions have been reached. Anticipated or planned changes to any special plans will be discussed at the town hall meetings, managers communication meetings and in other forums.

Transitional Care Unit (TCU)
Is it true that TCU is moving from Charleston Memorial Hospital to the main hospital? Is it true that all physician assistants are going to be laid off?
Answer: Currently a wide variety of opportunities to improve operational efficiency and achieve cost savings are being examined. In the case of moving programs or services, there are many factors that must be considered as the overall goal is to continue to provide quality patient care and to preserve jobs. It is not true that all physician assistants are being laid off.

Yearly Employee Support Campaign (YES)
Why is MUSC wasting money on printing costs and manpower for the YES Campaign? We employees have already been told that we will not get raises and that some of us may be laid off, yet MUSC has the nerve to waste all that money trying to get us to give up some of what little money we have. I am deeply offended by this and are many other employees. I suggest that MUSC skip the entire YES Campaign during these rough financial times and resume it at some point in the future when things are more stable.
Answer: Your feelings are understandable and the timing of the annual YES Campaign is always a challenge. As you know, the YES Campaign is 100 percent voluntary and serves to benefit patients and programs right here on campus. Given the mandated budget cuts from the South Carolina Legislature, this program takes on even greater significance for MUSC as a whole. As many university and hospital staff have a long standing commitment to the YES program, it is made available every year. The printing costs are not part of the hospital’s operating budget. We respect whatever choice you will make with regard to the YES Campaign and the campaign intends no offense to you or others.

Reproduced from


Nov. 7, 2008

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.