14 employees cut from staff at St. Mary’s

St. Mary’s Hospital laid off 14 employees last week in an effort to brace against further health care reimbursement cuts while balancing increasing demands for services, hospital officials said.

Most of the positions were part-time support services roles in areas such as education, public relations and administration, according to Dan Prinster, St. Mary’s vice president of planning and business development.

“We’re looking at services that are outdated, that are hard to justify with cost changes,” Prinster said. “Basically we’re trying to be thoughtful and proactive.”

St. Mary’s, the Western Slope’s largest hospital with more than 350 beds, employs about 2,000 people. Some laid-off employees may have the opportunity to reapply for open, posted positions, Prinster said. They have been offered varying degrees of compensation based on their years of service, he said, adding that no further employee layoffs are planned at this time.

Hospitals, similar to physicians in private practice, are reimbursed only a portion of the costs of health care incurred by patients with Medicare and Medicaid insurances. Reimbursement rates from Medicare, which already represent a fraction of the true cost of health care, may be reduced even further in coming years as Congress debates changes to the system.

Furthermore, health care facilities are anticipating an increase in patients with government-subsidized health insurances.

St. Mary’s has implemented a number of other cost-cutting tactics over the past couple years to rein in costs, and the layoffs are one component of the changes, Prinster said.

Measures have included curbing overtime costs, reducing the workforce through attrition and looking more toward local staff instead of hiring traveling workers.

The hospital also has reduced operating costs by keeping closer tabs on how it uses supplies.

For example, having the proper amount of linens in a room or using a washcloth to clean spills instead of using a large towel has reduced laundry costs by $500,000 a year, Prinster said.

New paper towel machines reduce waste in bathrooms, thereby reducing the amount of time it takes for employees to clean. Biodegradable silverware in the cafeteria has also proved to be a money saver, and staff also now more thoroughly check invoice sheets to determine if the hospital receives promised discounts for buying in bulk, he said.

“There’s been a lot of concerted effort in looking at health care reform, so we’ll be better situated down the road,” Prinster said.

“If we continue to be diligent and be careful, we don’t anticipate further reductions.”


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