Mandatory Furloughs Tough on Employees and Patients at Madigan Army Medical Center

By Patricia Murphy

More than 2,600 civilian employees at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma will begin mandatory one-day-a-week furloughs Monday. The furloughs are a result of the federal spending cuts known as sequestration.Madigan Commander Colonel Dallas Homas says the hospital serves 120,000 patients.

Coming up with a plan to run Madigan during furloughs was extremely challenging for leadership. Homas says to effectively deliver quality and safe care, "it’s not just having the nursing staff but you also have to have the pharmacy support to support those patients you also have to have the laboratory support and on and on.” 

Some services will shut down entirely one day a week. Some departments will work with a reduced staff. Some departments, like the emergency room will remain open. The logistical issues of running the hospital are one thing, but for Homas the most difficult aspect of the furloughs is what it means for staff. Over the next 11 weeks they will lose 20-percent of their pay.

Homas: “I know that I have employees whose homes will go in to foreclosure. You know it’s easy to talk about the impact to mission and all that, but you know really we should never lose sight; and really our leadership should never lose sight, of the personal toll.“

Homas says he’s read hundreds of letters from employees requesting to be exempted from furlough because of the impact it will have on their lives. In some cases, Homas says staff has left the hospital to work elsewhere because they simply can’t afford to lose the income. The furloughs are scheduled to remain in effect until September 30th.

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