LIMA — Faced with a changing health care landscape, including declining admissions and advances in technology, officials at St. Rita’s Medical Center announced the elimination of 60 jobs Friday, effective immediately.
The affected employees were notified earlier in the week, with the pubic announcement made Friday.
Brian Smith, president and CEO of St. Rita’s Health Partners, said the majority of the positions eliminated are in management and support areas. One non-managerial area, medical transcription services, was impacted more by advances in technology than anything else, he said.
“It’s been after much thought and careful review and consideration of the economic climate and the impacts of health care reform and uncertainties that we came to this decision. We are like any other business; we’re trying to continuously improve the processes in which we deliver care and become more efficient,” Smith said. “With the implementation of our CarePATH electronic medical record system it allowed us to become more efficient and eliminate redundant work in medical transcription. We reduced nine medical transcription positions.”
Smith said the job reductions are part of ongoing moves to improve efficiencies within the system through attrition, retirements, retraining for new positions and implementing more cost effective practices that didn’t achieve the savings officials deemed necessary. The job eliminations were a last step, Smith said.
“We will always act in a way that honors our commitment to our mission and balances that commitment with good stewardship of our resources,” Smith said. “Our primary focus remains providing a safe, quality environment for our patients. Just like other organizations, St. Rita’s has adopted lean management techniques from the manufacturing sector which have helped make the delivery of care more efficient. One positive result from these efforts is an overall reduction in most patients’ stay in the hospital.”
Not everyone is convinced the move will be a benefit to patient care at St. Rita’s.
“I’m one of the 60 that was eliminated and I was not in management. There were nine from my department who are all hard working, non-management staff,” Ashton Chiles, who was a medical transcriptionist at the medical center, wrote in a post on The Lima News’ Facebook page. “It’s a sad situation. Advances are better when they are going to benefit patient care, but I feel this will not. Sometimes going back to the basics is what’s important.”
Smith said the medical center is offering a variety of options to the individuals whose positions were eliminated.
“There are a variety of transition options that include severance, benefits continuation and opportunities to rebid into the company or into another affiliated organization,” Smith said. “It’s very individual in nature and people will kind of pick and choose what fits them best.”
Ultimately, St. Rita’s is not immune from national trends affecting healthcare systems including projections of a further decline in inpatient services, the uncertainties of healthcare reform and pending reimbursement changes.
“We absolutely feel that we’ve done what’s necessary at this point in time. We think we’ve done what we need to do,” Smith said. “We’re part of the health-care industry and we’re not immune from those national factors. That’s really what’s driving the majority of this. Our business is reshaping itself as we’re seeing less inpatients and you’re seeing people defer care because of economic conditions.
“At the same time because of the economic situation less people have health insurance. That’s creating a huge issue for the entire industry. Our charity care and free care was over $12 million last year and that number is going to be even higher this year. You have commercial payers subsidizing that free care so you have to really work hard to make sure you’re delivering the most efficient, high-quality care you can that’s creating good values and good outcomes for your customers.”
The layoffs announced Friday come four years after the hospital furloughed nearly 50 workers. In both cases, no nurses or direct patient care staffers were included in the layoffs.
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