June 23, 2018
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EMMC planning cutbacks, cost savings

By Meg Haskell, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Eastern Maine Medical Center is bracing for tough financial times ahead, stemming from the overall economic downturn and expected reductions in the state’s Medicaid budget. Earlier this week, hospital officials notified employees of stepped-up efforts to “achieve rapid and substantial cost reductions,” which could include laying off staff, putting off capital projects and paring back nonessential services.

While EMMC is always focused on controlling operational costs, the current downturn brings “a higher sense of urgency,” hospital president Deborah Carey Johnson said in an interview Wednesday.

“Everything is being reassessed,” she said. All departments have been asked to identify waste, inefficiencies and projects that can safely be postponed, she added, and “operational evaluation teams” are being formed to explore further opportunities for saving money.

“There are no across-the-board targets,” Johnson said, but the goal is to identify significant savings without jeopardizing patient care.

EMMC is engaged in a number of capital improvement projects, including the new Cancer Care of Maine facility in Brewer and a new parking garage at the State Street campus in Bangor. In addition, the state recently approved a $252 million upgrade of the main campus that would include a new patient care tower, new surgical suites and other improvements.

Johnson said the campus revision plan remains in place but may be postponed until the economic climate improves. “We need to do a better job of prioritizing our growth,” she said.

A package of cost-saving initiatives is expected to be compiled in the next three to six weeks, Johnson said. Budget cuts under consideration in Augusta include a payment reduction for medical care provided by hospital-employed physicians. Dr. James Raczek, chief medical officer at EMMC, said Wednesday the cut could cost the hospital as much as $6.5 million annually.



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