FORT KENT, Maine — More than 50 employees at Northern Maine Medical Center are affected by cost-saving measures announced Wednesday morning that are expected to save the hospital nearly $2.5 million in operating costs.
Nineteen employees have been laid off permanently while the work hours for an additional 32 workers have been reduced, according to a statement released by Martin Bernstein, NMMC chief executive officer.
Eighteen open positions will not be filled and Bernstein said additional work-hour reductions are pending.
“These steps have been taken to counter a reduction in patient activity brought on by a recession coupled with a loss of key health care providers,” Bernstein said. “These adjustments have not been easy and have required a lot of time and effort by staff.”
Additional cost-saving measures include a one-year moratorium on salary adjustments, a one-year pension furlough, a 30-percent reduction in the education budget, and reductions in supplies.
Total projected savings from the announced cuts is $2,474,909, Bernstein said.
The hospital administrator said the decisions were not made in haste or without knowledge of their impact on people.
“Some people have lost their jobs, which is most unfortunate,” he said. “To keep our doors open while preserving jobs and maintaining high quality care is where our focus is.”
Bernstein said the layoffs and reductions affected all employee areas in the health care facility.
Declines in the overall economy coupled with the hospital’s loss of key health care providers has created the fiscal crisis, he said.
“We’ve experienced a marked decline in patient activity,” he said. “We’ve taken a big hit because of that, and the economic situation has not helped.”
In fact, the 49-bed hospital had a loss of $300,528 between 2007 and 2008 due to outstanding bills from patients who were either unwilling or unable to pay their outstanding accounts, referred to as “bad-debt, charity” losses.
In addition, Bernstein said the state of Maine owes Northern Maine Medical Center $7 million in MaineCare payments.
Several months ago the hospital’s one orthopedic surgeon left. NMMC has been without one general surgeon and an oncologist for close to a year.
The cuts and reductions were effective as of Feb. 1. Bernstein said recovery would not come quickly.
“It will take 12 months to get back to where we want to be,” he said. “Going forward, we will carefully monitor our patient activity and make adjustments as needed.”
Northern Maine Medical Center is a nonprofit community hospital and currently employs about 600 people in facilities that include an acute-care hospital, a long-term care facility, wellness clinics and a psychiatric unit.