Report to the Medical Center Board
Good Morning. I would like to thank you for inviting me to speak on behalf of the Medical Center Staff Advisory Council.
I have been a Vanderbilt staff member for 20 years. I consider it a great privilege to be serving in my second term as President of the Medical Center Staff Advisory Council. The Council is an advisory group to both administration and staff on problems, policies and benefits that affect the Medical Center and its employees. The Council establishes and maintains communication between Medical Center staff and administration at all levels.
During my last term as President, one of my goals was to revitalize the Council. We have been successful in establishing a quarterly meeting with Dean Gabbe, Dean Conway-Welch, David Posch, Lynn Webb, Norm Urmy and a representative from Human Resources. I feel we have made great progress. This meeting is an asset to the Council and I hope it is to our Administration as well.
In the past few months, the Council has gone from having 15-20 members present at our meetings to now averaging approximately 60 per meeting. We still have improvements to make, in the area of attendance, but we have made substantial progress. With our quarterly meetings with administration, and the support of administration, we hope to make all of our department chairs and administrators aware of the Council and the importance of each of their departments being represented on the Council. I am optimistic that membership will continue to grow.
Staff are appreciative of the opportunities to voice their opinions via the Council and the Satisfaction Surveys. Some of the outcomes of our work on the Council and the surveys are: free patient parking, pay for performance evaluation system for staff, revised staff education benefit, expansions of the childcare centers, providing the option of short-term disability insurance, and a collaboration with Metropolitan Transit Authority for our staff to ride the buses to work free of charge.
When pondering what I would say today, I polled the Council for their input. The areas of concern that the Council has asked me to address are: additional expansion childcare, health benefits for retirees, cost of living compensation, and a combined time bank.
Even though the childcare centers were recently expanded, we currently provide early education and care at three locations (Belcourt Avenue, Edgehill Avenue, and the Annex building on Appleton Drive). Total capacity is approximately 205-210 depending on the ages of the children each year. All sites are open 6a - 6p, Monday - Friday. The wait to enroll is normally 12-18 months depending on the age of the child and the birthday. It can be shorter for older children or longer for younger ones. I understand there is a current proposal that would increase our capacity by 144 children. The plan is currently being reviewed and a site determined. However, there are currently 626 children on the waiting list.
While these 626 children on the waiting list are not going without childcare, they are not being served by the preferred provider their parents would like to use. The hours of the centers do not reflect hours that nurses, residents, some staff and faculty work. Nurses are typically on 12-hour shifts: 7 a – 7 p and 7 p – 7 a. Childcare at Vanderbilt is becoming a recruiting issue for residents, faculty, nurses and staff. Residents would like to see some slots “designated and protected” just for them. As they are typically here on a short-term basis, approximately one to four years. Currently out of the 100% utilizing our childcare, 42% is residents, nurses and staff. On the wait list, out of the 100%, 42% are residents, nurses and staff. I can provide the rest of the figures on current use and wait list if any one would like.
With regard to the issue of health care for retirees currently the only health care option after retirement is COBRA coverage, offered only on a self-paid basis, with high premiums, for 18, 29, or 36 months. Therefore the Council would like to suggest that a committee be formed, that would include Council representatives, to review the possibilities and options of offering retirees health care benefits.
I’d like to share one staff member’s comments regarding this issue, they state “I celebrated my 30 years service with Vanderbilt this year and had many ask me if I was going to retire. Well, there is no way I could retire or even want to at this point in my life. I am only 47 and enjoy my job, so there is nowhere else I want to be at this time. I can tell you that my mother retired from Bell South and had insurance as a benefit. My father retired from Metro Government and also had insurance with his retirement. Many companies have insurance benefits for those retiring who have worked in that company for 25 or 30 years and up. I do not agree that one should receive insurance as a benefit when retiring if they have only worked at the company a few years.” This staff member then mentions the service award celebrations honoring those staff with 30 years of service and up, and then closes by saying “What a great way to express gratitude to those who have dedicated their life to working at Vanderbilt by giving those employees insurance at retirement. This is the message I would like sent to the Medical Center Board of Trust. I came here fresh from graduating from Father Ryan High School at the age of 17. I have spent my entire adult life here. As part of the Elevate concept, we should honor those staff who have dedicated their lives to Vanderbilt.”
Another staff member states “Do you think that the Staff Council can be instrumental in convincing VUMC to offer health benefits at a reduced rate (lower than COBRA) for retirees? I know a lot of older people who would be interested in this and would prefer not to work until their Medicare benefits begin. Paying the COBRA rates and then getting another insurance policy after COBRA is exhausted will eat up retirement savings.”
And the last comment about insurance for retirees from a staff member says “Vanderbilt is one the largest employers in the state of Tennessee, and as such, I believe it would be an excellent recruiting and retention benefit. I also believe that with the uncertain future of social security and Medicare, full retirement benefits from Vanderbilt that includes healthcare, is a must to remain competitive. I don't think you should be able to take your benefits with you after retirement if only employed for a few years, but with most large companies, 25 years is when you are fully vested for retirement benefits.”
Regarding cost of living compensation, one staff member states “Merit raises, as awarded at Vanderbilt, do not begin to cover the cost increases out in the 'real' world. We, in middle Tennessee, have faced property tax, utility, and health insurance increases (Vanderbilt) in the past year. Along with the higher cost of gas, which has caused an increase in cost of groceries and household products, as well as other items. Cost of living compensation should be a standard percentage given across the board to counter balance for the higher cost of daily living, cost of living compensation is a necessity. Merit increases should be an 'incentive to work to higher standards' based on individual performance. Last year, cost of living increased 2.1%, average merit increase at Vanderbilt was 4-4.5%. Average increase after being adjusted for cost of living was only 1.9-2.4%.”
And the last concern voiced by members of the Council and Staff is the combination of sick, personal and vacation days into one bank. Staff would like to be able to 'donate' sick or vacation time to other employees who have used their time off due to medical needs, but continue to have a medical necessity where they cannot work and still need to receive a paycheck. Lastly, regarding this issue, one staff member states, “I believe our paid time off belongs to us, we have earned it, and by combining this time into a time bank, we will then be able to use it when it is most needed.“
I would like to commend Chancellor Gee for his continued support of the Mayor’s 1st day of school program. As a working mother, I very much appreciate this support. I hope efforts will continue to be made in the area of encouraging and supporting working parents to be active in their children’s classroom.
In closing, I am proud to be a Vanderbilt staff member and honored to be here today to represent the staff and Staff Council of the Medical Center.
This is the breakdown of the current utilization and waiting list for the childcare centers.
Current Enrollment Waiting List
(both parents included if both are VU employees)
Nurses 7% Nurses 10%
Residents 2% Residents 12%
Graduate Students 5% Graduate Students 13%
Med Staff 33% Med Staff 20%
Med Faculty 20% Med Faculty 16%
University Staff 20% University Staff 18%
University Faculty 13% University Faculty 11%