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St. Charles drops worker repayment demand for $2 million in overpayments; unions celebrate victory

KTVZ file

(Update: Union issues statement, celebrates victory)

Instead urges donations to caregivers fund; will seek damages from hacked timecard provider

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- St. Charles Health System late Friday dropped its demand that workers repay some $2 million in overpayments after weeks of worker and union objections and a petition drive by hundreds of caregivers refusing to make the payments without an independent audit to verify the figures' accuracy.

Two unions representing St. Charles workers declared victory after the announcement and called off plans for a news conference on Monday, which was the deadline the hospital had set for repayments or payment plans.

Here's the full statement sent to St. Charles workers by Dr. Steve Gordon, the hospital organization's interim president and CEO:

UKG Repayment Update 

"Caregivers,  

Thank you again for your patience as we have continued to work through the UKG outage issues.  

We have heard frustrations and confusion from many of you over the information and tools provided to verify the overpayment amounts. Caregivers have every right to understand the dollar amount we are asking them to repay. Although we continue to believe it is important that people who were paid for time they did not work pay those dollars back to the health system, we simply don’t have the resources to support the hundreds of complicated data requests we are receiving.  

I want you to know I have heard you and I have made the decision that St. Charles will no longer seek repayment of these funds from caregivers. Rather, we hope that those of you who know you were overpaid will consider making a donation in that same amount to the St. Charles Cares (Caregiver Assistance Fund) of the St. Charles Foundation.

It is easy to donate online and we would like to see this unfortunate situation result in direct support for our caregivers. We also plan to pursue damages from the vendor, UKG. If successful, we will match all caregiver donations to the fund. 

More than anything, I want to recognize and praise our internal Payroll team, our timekeepers and so many more who have gone above and beyond to make sure you were paid as accurately as possible given the information you provided. They have received an incredibly unfair amount of criticism and backlash for a situation that was caused not by them, but by a ransomware attack on a third-party vendor. We stand by the professionalism, accuracy and diligence of our Payroll and timekeeping teams. 

Already, more than 100 caregivers have paid back the overpayment amount. We greatly appreciate your prompt responses and commitment to doing what’s right. If you no longer wish to make your repayment, you can contact the Payroll team directly by Oct. 14 to make this request. In addition, more than 300 caregivers have completed the paperwork to start the repayment process. The Payroll team will not process these agreements. If you are among this group, please know you are also strongly encouraged to donate to the overpayment amount to the St. Charles Cares (Caregiver Assistance Fund)

This situation has also brought to light a number of issues around timecard practices and accountability. Going forward, you will see a strong focus on improvement in this area. 

Thank you again to so many of you who have already chosen to do the right thing in a situation that has been extremely difficult to navigate for all involved. 

Sincerely,

Steve"


News release/media advisory from the Oregon Nurses Association:

Canceled: ONA/OFNHP Press Conference Scheduled for Monday August 29 at 10 a.m.

"With St. Charles Health System’s statement this evening that it is no longer demanding repayments of alleged overpayments from hospital staff, the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) and the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (OFNHP) are canceling Monday’s scheduled press conference. 

It is gratifying to know that the voices of hundreds of nurses and allied health care workers from across the St. Charles system have finally been heard. With the distraction of the payroll crisis behind us, we are eager to turn our attention back to what we can do to improve patient care and address critical issues including safe staffing, rest and meal breaks, recruitment and retention of qualified staff, and providing high-quality patient care for everyone in our communities.  

ONA and OFNHP are taking a moment to celebrate this victory – a victory that would not have been possible without the hard work and commitment of our more than a one thousand members across the St. Charles system – but we will not rest here. There is so much more work to be done for our patients and our community and we will be releasing a statement on our next steps early next week. 

This is a proud moment for the nurses and health care providers at St. Charles, but there is so much work left to do. St. Charles may have done the right thing this time, but we will continue to press them to address the many other issues and serious concerns we face on a daily basis. " 

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