While there has been no official announcement, several OHSU employees report that a hiring freeze has started in Central Services, which covers areas such as ITG, Facilities and Logistics and Central Financial Services In addition, Local 328 has been notified that a hiring “frost” will go into effect in departments reporting to the Provost and the Chief Financial Officer, where vacancies will be more closely reviewed before a decision is made on whether to fill them.
This is the third freeze since 2009, but what makes this one different is the reason, or rather, the lack of reason. The 2009 freeze came when we were in the middle of the worst recession in decades. In 2013 OHSU was impacted by Congress’ budget sequestration and management expressed uncertainty over health care reform. But this year there is no apparent economic problem, in fact OHSU’s financial outlook is good, according to Chief Financial Officer Lawrence Furhstahl’s latest report. So why the belt-tightening, and why now?
OHSU’s operating income is down $10 million compared to last year, but that is only part of the picture. On the whole, the hospital’s position is strong – Furnstahl estimates fiscal year 2015 earnings at approximately $95 million. He believes further earnings could be realized by controlling year-over-year growth costs, especially in supplies and services. More good news: OHSU’s total net worth now stands at $2.4 billion, an increase of $28 million over last year. But wait, there’s more: total cash and investments now stand at $739 million, which is a one-year increase of $14 million, according to Furnstahl.
There is a lot of optimism around OHSU these days, and for good reason – fund-raising for the Knight challenge has almost reached the $500 million goal, the waterfront expansion is booming and the hospital’s financial house is in good order. As Local 328 begins contract bargaining it will be interesting to see whether the freeze, whatever its cause, becomes an issue when we start negotiating wage increases for OHSU employees.