Health & Family

Novant Health to cut pay for medical secretaries

More than 150 medical secretaries at Novant Health in Charlotte and Winston-Salem will get pay cuts early next year, system officials have confirmed.

The employees were notified last week about the pay cuts as well as changes in their titles and duties.

Officials with the Winston-Salem-based Novant said the changes result from implementation of electronic medical records in recent years. In the past, “the most demanding and complex part of the ‘medical unit secretary’ role was physician order entry,” according to a hospital statement. Now those orders are entered into the electronic record automatically by the physician, and the work of the secretary has “dramatically changed,” the statement said.

The position has been reclassified as a “medical unit receptionist,” and 157 employees in that role will get a “maximum salary decrease of 10 percent” starting Jan. 11. Novant would not disclose the pay range for this position.

The decision comes more than two months after Novant announced that big payouts from Novant Health’s retirement plan boosted compensation for its leaders in 2013. The one-time payouts were made as a result of Novant’s switch from a defined benefit, or pension, plan for top executives to a defined contribution plan, similar to a 401(k). Novant said the switch will save the hospital system $50 million.

Because of the switch, Novant paid out executives’ retirement account balances as a lump sum, and some executives took home nine times what they made in the previous year. CEO Carl Armato was paid about $8.2 million in 2013, up from $1.7 million the year before. His pension payout totaled $6.1 million, his salary was just over $1 million, and his bonus was $917,964.

Novant operates 15 hospitals in several states, including four in Mecklenburg County, as well as hundreds of physician practices. The private nonprofit company has $3.6 billion worth of annual revenue.