Southeastern cuts nurse pay to cope with budget struggles

First Posted: 10/22/2013

LUMBERTON — Southeastern Health, facing ongoing budget issues, has eliminated a pay option for registered nurses that its president and CEO says will save the organization $3 million a year.

But at least one of those affected believes Southeastern Regional Medical Center, which Southeastern Health manages, will see an exodus of nurses.

“This decision was not made in haste and it was not made lightly,” Joann Anderson, the CEO and president of Southeastern Health, said in a statement. “Given the options we had available, we believed this was one we needed to make.”

Southeastern Health had paid about 95 registered nurses who agreed to work weekends a higher wage during those shifts, about $4 more an hour. But beginning Jan. 1, they will all lose that added pay. According to, the average salary of a registered nurse in the United States is about $65,000.

Anderson said in the statement that the pay change allows the medical center “to continue to provide services, as well as maintain jobs.”

It is the third major step since 2010 that the not-for-profit has taken to stabilize itself financially.

Southeastern Health cut 112 positions across the entire organization — nearly 5 percent of its staff at the time — three years ago as part of a plan to save nearly $7.5 million annually.

In August, it was announced that the organization had eliminated several positions, including two vice presidents and a director, eliminated some vacant positions and consolidated others. Additionally, one nursing unit was closed and all affected employees were moved to vacant positions. Anderson vowed that the health system would not face “massive layoffs” despite anticipated cuts in payments from Medicaid and Medicare.

A registered nurse who has worked for Southeastern Regional Medical Center for more than a decade says she expects to lose $17,000 to $20,000 in annual income as a result of the cuts. The Robesonian elected to allow the nurse to speak on the condition we would not publish her name.

According to the nurse, more than half of her co-workers have expressed plans to leave.

“The money made the stress OK,” she said. “Without that, I think I’ll have to move on.”

She said the cuts should have come from the top of the organization.

“Take one of those positions away and pay one of us 95 middle class people,” she said.

According to Anderson, a recent recruitment push should lead to increased revenue in general surgery, orthopedics and neurosurgery.

“We will struggle if the state does not expand Medicaid, people do not sign up for the insurance exchange and people do not pay their co-pays and deductibles for services received,” she said.

She said if those things don’t happen, Southeastern Health “will be forced to look at additional cost cutting measures.”