Hospitals blame reform, economy for layoffs

Cash-strapped hospitals across the country are sending out pink slips as they prepare for possible Medicare reimbursement cuts and state challenges to expanding Medicaid benefits under federal healthcare reform.

Hospitals in Chicago, Nashville, and Cumberland, Md., already have laid off hundreds of employees, according to various news accounts. And in Englewood, N.J., officials at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center are threatening to lay off 70 registered nurses, The Record reports.

Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the primary teaching hospital for Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, told the Chicago Tribune it had laid off 230 employees, part of an effort to cut costs by 25 percent by 2017.

Northwestern blamed lower patient volume, as well as pending changes to Medicare and Medicaid, the Tribune reported. While the hospital laid off more than 230, it also has about 200 openings in other areas, the paper noted.

Nashville, Tenn.-based Saint Thomas Health cut 150 nonclinical positions at Saint Thomas Hospital and Baptist Hospital, The Tennessean reported, including closing a wellness center.

An unspecified number of layoffs are on the table at Western Maryland Health System as it tries to reduce spending by up to $8 million by fiscal 2013, the Cumberland Time- News reported. Hospital spokeswoman Kathy Rogers blamed costs associated with healthcare reform.

Meanwhile, the nurses union in North Jersey was calling the proposed layoffs at unnecessary and "without any financial justification" at a hospital whose profit margin doubled from 2 percent to 4 percent last year, according to The Record.

Englewood hospital countered that it lost more than $1.5 million in the first quarter of this year, the paper reported.

"Hospital executives said Englewood is facing the same financial challenges as other employers and is responding to trends seen in other hospitals, including decreasing numbers of patients, declining federal reimbursement for Medicare patients and uncertainty about whether Medicaid will be expanded in New Jersey to cover more uninsured patients," according to the article.

The number of mass layoffs at hospitals more than doubled month to month in both May and June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A mass layoff is defined as 50 or more people at one place losing their jobs on the same day.

To learn more:
- read the Record article
-see the Chicago Tribune report
-here's The Tennessean piece
-check out the Times-News story

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