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Howard University Hospital Employees Brace for Furloughs

Dorothy Rowley | 7/12/2013, 3:54 p.m.
Officials at Howard University maintain that the furloughs of 1,700 employees at the university hospital in the next year will not affect patient care. (Courtesy of Howard University)

Officials at Howard University announced earlier this week 1,700 of its hospital employees will be forced to take 12 days of unpaid leave in the next year, part of an effort to save the school $6 million.

The furloughs "will be carefully coordinated to retain the highest quality patient care delivery," according to a statement issued on July 10 by the university.

While the officials have said the furloughs won't affect patient care, they have offered no further comment on the matter. Beginning in August, non-union staffers — many of whom will have to make cuts to their own budgets — will be the first to participate in the temporary layoffs.

"When you hear of the number of furloughs that will occur, [it] couldn't possibly be good," an unidentified hospital worker said during a broadcast interview.

The hospital, adjacent to the university's Northwest campus, has traditionally provided care to a significant number of the District's poorer residents. Administrators, pressured to decrease expenses due to revenue shortfalls, said they plan to reduce spending in areas that include on employee overtime, supplies and drugs.

The furloughs stem partly from the university's plans to recoup revenue lost this school year from a decline in enrollments and a change in reimbursement rates aligned with patient care services.

Meanwhile, a Moody's Investors Service review warned in a July 8 statement that the university's credit rating, which now stands at the moderate A3 level, could be downgraded.

The statement also indicated that while the school is not in danger of being a high risk for default, the rating reflects the university's "extremely pressured environment."