Orlando Health CEO talks to WFTV about nurse pay issue

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ORLANDO, Fla. - Orlando Health's president and CEO Sherrie Sitarik said the hospital is healthy despite talks of job cuts and disgruntled employees.

In an interview with Channel 9's Greg Warmoth, Sherrie Sitarik said that she must get the cost of doing business in line with other hospitals. She said that means making some tough choices.

Nurses have gone from helping patients to trying to help themselves.

With the threat of a reduction in their take-home pay, more than 150 nurses are threatening to form a union.

"I really don't believe we need a third party getting involved in relationships that over many years have allowed us to have the success we've had," said Sitarik.

At issue is differential pay -- the amount paid over the standard rate for working overnight, weekend or holidays. In some cases, it's an extra $10 an hour. Some employees could lose 20 percent of their pay with the loss of differential pay.

"Our shift differential and call pay for workers at night was way out of line with the market," said Sitarik.

Sitarik said that after surveying more than 200 hospitals the new pay rate is more in line with other hospitals.

She said after reportedly losing more than $8 million last quarter, plus a drop in Medicaid reimbursements, the failure to pay by others, and the upcoming unknown financial hit of the Affordable Care Act, something had to be done.

"Health care costs are unsustainable, and sooner or later the bubble was going to burst," said Sitarik.

Sitarik said she understand that some employees are not happy with her. She said she listened to their concerns by extending from October to January the change in differential pay -- ultimately giving employees more time to adjust. She said the alternative was worse.

"I could have no other choice but to reduce jobs, and I don't want to do that," said Sitarik.

Sitarik, who earns a seven-figure salary, said no one's pay is being cut, just the differential pay is being reduced.

As for the threat of nurses leaving, she said there is not a nursing shortage anymore and while she hopes no one leaves, there are a lot of nurses looking for work.