BANGOR, Maine — Eastern Maine Medical Center announced Wednesday the layoff of nearly 50 full- and part-time employees, including approximately 23 nurses and about 25 nonclinical staff.
The workers were notified Wednesday that their positions will be eliminated with most layoffs taking effect March 19, according to hospital spokeswoman Jill McDonald. The reductions are driven by a combination of the economic downturn, changes in public and private insurance reimbursements and improvements in outpa-tient care, she said.
McDonald called the layoffs “a horrible process for any corporation” and said the medical center was the scene on Wednesday of “a lot of tears, a lot of hugging and a lot of support” among co-workers.
The layoffs come after the medical center’s decision in January to offer early retirement to a number of employees with an aim of reducing the work force by 100 positions. McDonald said about 300 senior staff, many approaching retirement age, were offered incentives to accept early retirement benefits. As of Wednesday, about 50 had accepted the offer, she said.
“We figure we’ve gotten to about half [of the 100-position reduction target],” she said. “This is the rest today.”
EMMC employs about 3,700 workers in its inpatient and outpatient service areas, including about 1,000 nurses.
McDonald said that in contrast to the longtime employees offered early retirement in January, Wednesday’s layoffs affected primarily workers who were recently hired. Those affected will be given preferential consideration for existing positions within the organization, McDonald said. Those who are not placed within EMMC will be offered a severance package and assistance in finding outside jobs, she said.
The number of inpatients at EMMC has been shrinking in recent months, McDonald said, with many medical units down-staffing on a regular basis because they have fewer patients needing care. The decreased bed count reflects improvements in outpatient care as well as people delaying elective procedures because of the loss of a job or changes in their insurance coverage, she said. In addition, she said, EMMC and other hospitals in Maine are affected by “dwindling reimbursements” from government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid as well as from private insurers.
These factors are likely to reflect long-term trends in health care, she said, with more services being delivered in outpatient settings.
Meanwhile, McDonald said, EMMC continues to plan to expand its State Street campus but will make adjustments to reflect changes in the health care market.
“We know we need it. We are still committed to the elements of the [expansion] plan,” she said. “We need to make sure it is financially feasible.”