Pen Bay Healthcare cuts work force further

By Heather Steeves, BDN Staff
Posted March 25, 2010, at 8:51 p.m.

ROCKPORT, Maine — Pen Bay Healthcare laid off 15 more people and eliminated several positions to try to meet the expected $3 million revenue drop for the next fiscal year, starting in April.

A laundry list of departments is affected, including but not limited to surgical practice, urology, neurology, pediatrics, family medicine, human resources, billing and information technology.

In an internal memo given to employees Thursday, Pen Bay CEO Roy Hitchings wrote, “These changes are stressful, and they go well beyond numbers on a page. They touch our colleagues, coworkers, family and friends. This is why the PBH leadership team worked so tirelessly to ensure jobs cut affected the fewest possible number of people.”

The cuts include:

· 15 layoffs.

· 20 employees will have reduced hours; eight were voluntary.

· Elimination of four jobs and moving those employees to vacant positions.

· Elimination of seven other vacant positions.

· Not replacing three jobs left open by employees who retired.

· Not replacing one management employee who resigned.

Pen Bay Healthcare cut 10 positions and reduced hours for seven employees in February, but as the nonprofit’s new fiscal year approached, it needed to reduce expenses to balance the budget. Fewer people are visiting their doctors, and more of those who do have not been paying their medical bills, according to Chris Burke, director of marketing and communications for Pen Bay Healthcare.

“We’ve been seeing a reduction in volume [of patients] because of the recession. We have been receiving increasing applications for free care and bad debt,” Burke said Thursday. Burke said a combination of free care and unpaid medical bills was up 43 percent, costing the hospitals $6 million. Next year’s budget projects another $3 million reduction in revenues as a result of declining volume of patients.

Pen Bay Healthcare’s budget for next year is $139 million. This year’s budget was estimated earlier at $185 million.

This is par for the course in Maine health care, according to Maine Hospital Association president Steve Michaud.

“It’s going on in a lot of places, and in the last 18 months we’ve seen [more than] 600 jobs lost in Maine hospitals. Those aren’t all layoffs — but a lot of them are,” Michaud said Thursday.

Michaud is confident that Maine will see many more hospital layoffs.

“The biggest challenge we’re seeing now is very steep declines in patient activity, patient volume, [number of] visits. That kind of thing is difficult for a hospital to deal with because it is difficult to reduce your costs fast enough to reflect the reduction in revenue,” Michaud said.

Burke said he hoped these were the last of Pen Bay’s layoffs now that the nonprofit has reached its budget goals for next year.

“We believe that we have a viable budget in place. We believe it will maintain access to high-quality care in the community,” he said.

Pen Bay Healthcare includes Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport, Knox Center for Long-term Care in Rockland, Quarry Hill extended care facility in Camden, Kno-Wal-Lin Home Care and Hospice in Rockland, and various physicians and associates. The nonprofit employs about 1,500 people.

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/03/25/business/pen-bay-healthcare-cuts-work-force-further/ printed on July 22, 2014