The Georgetown University Medical Center instituted a hiring freeze last week as the next step in remedying its precarious financial situation.

Effective immediately, the hiring freeze is intended to assist the Medical Center in reducing its deficit by $5 million during the current fiscal year.

Stuart Bondurant, interim executive vice president at the edical Center, discussed the hiring freeze in a presentation to the faculty senate on Oct. 12.

Bondurant said that exceptions to the freeze will be made on a case-by-case basis and prior hiring commitments will be honored, an article in the faculty newspaper Blue & Gray reported.

He also said that he will review each exception and assess whether its benefits outweigh its costs to other areas of the edical Center budget.

“The goal of the hiring freeze is to reduce current costs and to minimize any layoffs that might be needed in the future,” Amy DeMaria, director of communications at the edical Center said.

According to DeMaria, the Medical Center is working to lower its current deficit by $5 million this year and by an additional $7 million in fiscal year 2006, resulting in a balanced budget by fiscal year 2007.

This hiring freeze comes after layoffs of 65 staff and non-tenured faculty at the Medical Center earlier this year.

“Our goal is to manage any potential layoffs, to the extent possible, by not filling vacancies,” DeMaria said. “It is not clear at this time whether further layoffs will, in fact, be necessary.”

Bondurant said that he did not feel that the hiring freeze will negatively affect the Medical Center’s academic reputation or its standing as a premier educational and research facility.

“I am confident that our strengths will help us continue to attract and retain exceptional researchers and educators at Georgetown,” Bondurant said.

He said that researchers at the Medical Center have received a record amount of sponsored research awards this year, totaling over $130 million.

“While we are certainly facing a challenge, it is important to keep that challenge in context and to not let it overshadow our accomplishments and our many strengths,” he added.

Four working groups – one for each of the Medical Center’s four academic divisions, the School of Medicine, the School of Nursing and Health Studies, the Lombardi Cancer Center and a research group that covers all other biomedical research – have been reviewing and assessing financial issues surrounding the Medical Center, as well as the balancing of its budget.

They will present their findings and proposals to the university’s board of directors in December.

The Medical Center also plans to cut costs by scrutinizing expense accounts and establishing new standards for spending on travel and meals.

The Medical Center has faced financial turmoil and burgeoning debt since the advent of managed healthcare in the late 1980s. After the Medical Center’s deficit reached a high of $83 million in 1999, the university approved the sale of the hospital to MedStar Health, a Bethesda, Md. healthcare conglomerate, in July 2000.

In the years since then, the Medical Center has been working to reduce expenses and manage its deficit.

The recent layoffs yielded $7.9 million in expense reductions, yet that falls short of the Medical Center’s goals. The edical Center has lost a total of $333 million since fiscal year 1995.

But Bondurant remains optimistic about the Medical Center’s future.

“Georgetown University Medical Center is uniquely well-positioned to thrive in the coming years,” Bondurant said. “Our location in the nation’s capital, our international presence and our clinical partnership with MedStar Health are among the reasons that we will prosper.”

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