By JEFF MEYERS
---- — PLATTSBURGH — CVPH Medical Center has handed pink slips to 17 employees.
The layoffs — nine in management and eight hourly staffers — are part of an effort to “help bolster the hospital’s financial position in 2013 and beyond,” the hospital said in a statement.
“We received direction from our Board of Directors to move forward in an in-depth and thoughtful fashion” to determine which positions would be cut, CVPH President Stephens Mundy said in an interview.
“We made sure that we looked throughout the organization in making our decision.”
The management cuts included a top-level administrator, though Mundy would not name any specific positions lost.
The hourly employees laid off included positions in human resources, information technology and finances, he added. None of the cuts were to direct caregivers, including the nursing staff.
“We tried to pick positions that would not impact the care of our patients,” he said. “In some situations, we looked at duplicated roles.”
That did not make the process any easier, he added, noting that administration met individually with each person and the layoff was effective immediately.
“Many of these people had worked here a long time, had worked their way up through the organization. These are very good people, and they have worked really hard while at CVPH.”
Those laid off will receive severance pay and health-insurance benefits through the end of the year. CVPH will also offer assistance in finding them other employment and had already contacted other hospitals across the region about possible openings.
“A couple of people have already interviewed with other organizations,” he said.
Dan Ashline-Beaudet, employee representative for SEIU 1199, was with each union member during his or her meeting with management and said the union will also work to help those people impacted.
“It is a very emotional time,” he said of the process. “It’s not the hospital’s intent to harm anyone or get rid of good employees, but it did come down to individual faces. It impacted employees with a little over a year (on the job) and employees who have been here a couple of decades.”
SEIU employees laid off will have a couple of options based on the union contract, Ashline-Beaudet noted in a phone interview. Some had the least seniority in their current position, but they may have more based on overall time employed at the hospital and could be eligible for other spots, he explained.
“We will look over the files (of the employees affected) and set up meetings with them to go over what options may be available to them,” he said.
A $400,000 shortfall in revenue is blamed for the move, brought on by cuts in reimbursement, fewer admissions and less use of outpatient services, Mundy said.
“This step is necessary in order to help sustain our Medical Center in the future,” he said in a press release earlier Wednesday. “Regardless, it is one of the most difficult decisions we have had to make in my 10 years at CVPH.”
Earlier this month, the hospital announced a reconfiguration of patient-to-nurse and also clinical-assistant-to-nurse ratios on several floors that is also aimed at reducing the deficit.
With fewer nurses needed on patient floors, some will have to be placed into a float pool, where they will be assigned to duties on a daily basis, a move the hospital said will save in operating costs through the reduction of overtime, premium pay and use of traveling nurses.
Nurses have expressed concern over the restructuring, in part because of possible loss of hours, but also they pointed out that assignment through the float pool could mean nurses with certain specialties may not be used where they can do the most good.
‘AT A CROSSROADS’
Mundy said that systemic changes in health care and a number of short-term business-cycle factors worked to undermine CVPH’s finances after three of the stronger financial years in its history.
“Over the past several months, we have initiated a number of measures to reduce future expenses,” he said. “Physician Recruitment is working to fill positions that opened unexpectedly this year. The pending affiliation with Fletcher Allen Partners will generate additional savings through group purchasing.
“Additionally, there are several new physicians slated to start serving our community next summer.”
Mundy said he believes CVPH is well positioned for the future at a time when the health-care industry is at a crossroads and some hospitals will fail.
“CVPH is an excellent medical center that will continue to provide exceptional care for its patients. Our mission is to provide quality care for North Country residents. That has not, nor will it, change.”
The hospital employs more than 2,300. The layoffs represent the elimination of a little more than 5 percent of management and less than one-half of 1 percent of hourly staff members.
Mundy noted that last month, members of the administrative staff voluntarily took a reduction in pay, but he would not say what percentage that was.
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