UMass Memorial to cut 350 jobs

In the largest hospital cutback in Massachusetts this year, UMass Memorial Health Care is cutting about 350 jobs, according to the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester. The reduction in force is part of a plan to trim $28 million from the 1,125-bed chain's $2.5 billion budget.

Officials at the healthcare system said they expect to lay off 130 workers, eliminate 120 vacant positions and shed approximately 100 jobs by cutting work hours and shifting employees from full-time to part-time slots, according to a UMass press release. 

"We're trying to prepare ourselves for the longer term," John G. O'Brien, president and CEO of Worcester-based UMass Memorial Health Care, which employs 13,700, told the Boston Globe. "We don't think the pressure on hospitals to reduce costs will abate for several years.

Because the number of patients admitted to UMass hospital and its affiliates was flat and the number of surgeries was growing at a lower rate than in the past, the system's budget was $85 million below a financial target that would have allowed it to generate a small gain for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30. Typically, the system would see growth in patient admissions categories of about 3 to 4 percent, the Telegram reports. But this year, inpatient admissions are expected to rise by less than 2 percent. "People are putting off getting their healthcare, either because they have to pay part of the bill or they don't want to take off work," O'Brien said.

The cuts are the latest evidence that the weak economy and pressure to keep healthcare costs down is taking a toll on hospitals that serve some of the neediest patients. UMass Memorial serves many low-income patients on Medicaid. Just last month, Boston Medical Center, which also serves poor patients, announced it was cutting 119 jobs from a workforce of 6,000.

Lower reimbursement rates from the government and private insurers, plus an industry-wide shift from inpatient to outpatient services, were among other reasons UMass listed for the cuts. In better economic times, UMass Memorial hospitals hired about 800 new workers a year, the Globe reports.

Most of the cuts will affect UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, and only administrative or nonclinical positions.

To learn more:
- read the UMass Memorial press release
- read the Associated Press article
- here's the Telegram & Gazette's article
- read the Boston Globe article

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