Hospital Staff Sacrifices To Save Jobs

Dr. DeWayne Pursely
Dr. DeWayne Pursely, one of the hospital department heads who took a voluntary pay cut.

The staff at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston made its name by caring for its patients, but these days they're caring for each other.

"If you let them show it," said Paul Levy, the hospital's CEO, "they will do miracles."

The hospital needed a miracle when it came down with a $20 million deficit, reports CBS News correspondent Richard Schlesinger.

It looked like layoffs were inevitable - 6,300 people are employed full time at the hospital and 600 of them would have lost their jobs. And most of those jobs would have belonged to the lowest-paid employees, people who needed their jobs the most.

People like Ada Azotam, who works in the food service department.

"Twenty million dollars is big," Schlesinger said.

"It's a big number," Azotam said.

"Didn't that worry you?" Schlesinger said.

"I was afraid for a little bit," Azotam said.

But Levy tried something only a few executives have. He let employees see the numbers and asked for everyone's help.

"The response was, truthfully, as heartwarming as you could ever imagine," Levy said.

"It was just doing the right thing," said Dr. DeWayne Pursley.

The 13 department heads, like Pursley, took pay cuts that totaled $350,000 - that's about 10 jobs saved.

"You have expenses," Schlesinger said.

"I have three kids in college," Pursely said.

And other doctors took out their checkbooks. The checks came in, some for $500, some $10,000 or $15,000. That raised more than $326,000 - more jobs saved.

And there were more sacrifices. Senior Management took pay cuts. Everyone agreed to forgo 401(k) matching payments, postpone raises, give back some raises already awarded and reduce sick days and vacation time. They even cancelled the annual barbecue.

"Our workers came up with the ideas to save their fellow workers' jobs, it's as simple as that," Levy said.

And when all the contributions and all the givebacks were added up, the layoff list shrunk from 600 to just 70. Ada Azotam was safe.

"A hundred percent, I'm not worried about my job," Azotam said.

"Nobody wants their friends and colleagues to be laid off and everyone is willing to give a little to make that happen," Levy said. "Why doesn't this happen more often in America?"

It could. Levy has heard from several companies interested in his prescription for easing the pain of bad times.

  • Richard Schlesinger
    Richard Schlesinger

    Correspondent, "48 Hours," "CBS Evening News"