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Hospice workers receive bonuses for job well done

The agency, which has nearly 1,000 employees, pays full-timers about $1,000 after taxes.

By WAVENEY ANN MOORE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 18, 2002

Employees of Hospice of the Florida Suncoast got a surprise early this month. Each, from maintenance worker to nurse to executive, got a one-time bonus of about $1,000 after taxes. The bonuses were valued at $1-million.

The payment was in appreciation for a job well done, said Mike Bell, vice president of development and community relations.

"Our staff had a great year of containing costs, while never sacrificing the quality of care for patients and families," he said.

"While we are not in a position to make a permanent salary adjustment for everyone, we wanted to recognize their contributions, so a one-time gift was made to each employee."

Money for the bonuses came from cost savings and donations, he said.

Explaining the rationale behind using donations for the bonuses, Bell said: "Often, when we receive gifts in memory of a loved one, the team, if not the specific nurse or counselor or home health aide, may be mentioned by name. I think that donors are making that gift in appreciation, and I think it's very honorable of their intent that it be shared with the providers of the care."

On average, each of the organization's full-time employees got about $1,000 after taxes. Part-time and flex-time employees were also given bonuses. The agency has slightly fewer than 1,000 employees, including nurses, counselors, home health aides and chaplains. There are also about 3,000 volunteers.

Hospice of the Florida Suncoast, with headquarters in Largo, is the nation's largest community-based nonprofit Hospice, Bell said, serving about 1,600 patients and their families daily. Its largest single source of income is Medicare and other medical insurance, Bell said.

"In any given year, we've provided about $5-million in unreimbursed care. The community's generosity makes that possible," he said.

The bonuses, which were distributed toward the close of the agency's fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, were announced at a Sept. 4 meeting. Employees were ecstatic, Bell said.

"It was incredible. The faces, the expressions and the real personal situations that you're not aware of," he said.

"One employee expressed that her husband was out of the country and getting him home to her was a financial problem. She was going straight to the airport to buy a plane ticket. Another mother and daughter immediately found each other as the meeting ended and are planning the daughter's wedding. You saw the humanity and what's going on in their lives."

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