As we enter 2019, I would be remiss if I didn’t take a minute to first reflect on just a few of our accomplishments in 2018. Nothing means more to me than the stability and well-being of our team. When I think back on the past year, my proudest moments were learning NHRMC had earned a spot as the 47th Best Large Employer in the U.S. by Forbes Magazine, having our employee engagement scores place us at the 74th percentile nationally, and how we came together through Hurricane Florence.
I cannot say enough about the amazing work and compassion our team demonstrated during Hurricane Florence. This was a historic event when our community needed us most, and collectively we all stepped up and did an outstanding job meeting and exceeding the many needs in our community.
Caring for our people is the cornerstone of caring for our community, so I am thrilled to share with you that New Hanover Regional Medical Center will be able to make a significant new investment in our team in 2019. This is thanks to the hard work all have done to position our organization for success and overcome the challenges and storms we have faced in the past year.
Within the next few weeks, we will increase salaries for many positions through market adjustments totaling $5 million. This is in addition to the $23 million in pay adjustments made just last year. Among other changes, we are increasing our Healthy Community Wage to ensure every employee of NHRMC, NHRMC Physician Group, Pender Memorial Hospital and NHRMC Home Care earns at least $11.85 an hour, up from $11.50 an hour. This will be reflected in paychecks Feb. 28, 2019.
We are also increasing wages for positions that were found to be below market average and did not receive any type of market adjustment last year. More than 1,750 employees and 188 staff positions will receive these adjustments. Impacted staff will receive a letter in the coming weeks.
To stay competitive in attracting and keeping staff, we are also increasing all our wage and grade scales. This will allow experienced employees to earn more and decrease the need to issue merit lump sums to those who are no longer eligible for hourly wage increases because they have reached the top of their pay ranges. While the wage and grade scales will be increased by 3% for all positions; it will not result in each employee receiving a 3% pay adjustment.
Of course, we will continue to reward and recognize great work with merit increases, which this year will total $9.7 million in additional compensation, and invest in keeping our employees’ out-of-pocket medical costs down. For the fifth consecutive year, we’re pleased to be holding our medical premiums well below national averages for our employees, saving them more than $8.5 million in out-of-pocket costs compared to recently published averages. The market adjustments, merit increases and contribution to offsetting employee medical premiums represent a total commitment of $23.2 million in 2019.
When we talk about financial discipline, it is for this reason: It is so we can invest in things that matter. You matter. The care we deliver together matters. Thank you for all you have done to allow us to be able to make these increases, and thank you for Leading Our Community to Outstanding Health.