Bangor hospital announces job cuts

Posted June 06, 2011, at 6:14 p.m.
Last modified June 06, 2011, at 7:47 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Eastern Maine Medical Center on Monday announced cost-saving measures that will result in the loss of an unspecified number of positions at the 400-bed hospital.

Hospital President and CEO Deborah Carey Johnson was unwilling to provide the overall number and types of positions affected, but stressed that administrators hope to find new positions for any employees displaced from their current jobs because of the changes.

“We have identified positions we feel will not have an impact on patient care services,” Johnson said. “None of the nursing positions involve nurses who provide direct patient care at the bedside or in the [emergency department],” she said.

The union representing registered nurses at the hospital has already filed a grievance, citing unsafe patient conditions and possible violations of the recently signed nursing contract.

Several of the job eliminations are the result of a decision to perform most obstetrical and gynecological surgical procedures in the general operating suites instead of in the specialized OB/GYN suite on the seventh floor of the Grant Tower, Johnson said. Most cesarean section deliveries will still be performed in the Grant 7 suite, she said.

Other areas affected include radiology, patient care administration and the hospital’s printing operation.

Chief Financial Officer Mer Doucette said EMMC, like all hospitals, is trying to maintain its bottom line while adapting to significant changes in the health care field. MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program for low-income and disabled residents, has cut EMMC’s reimbursements by $4 million this year, he said, and Medicare payments are down by $3 million. The two programs account for 65 percent of EMMC’s revenues, he said.

“We are also experiencing an increase in charity care,” Doucette said — the number of people who have no insurance coverage at all and cannot pay their medical bills. Charity care provided at EMMC so far this year totals about $15.4 million, compared to $13.2 million last year at this time, Doucette said.

In addition, the volume of paying health care consumers is down, he said, in part due to the declining economy and in part due to improvements in outpatient care.

“This is an ongoing challenge,” Doucette said. “We’re not finished making adjustments as the sands continue to shift.”

A notice sent to members of the Maine State Nurses Association indicated that 14 nurses would be affected by the work force reduction, and that those nurses “are not necessarily the least senior in their units.”

“This is a clear violation of the [nursing] contract and MSNA will fight this unfair targeting if the Medical Center proceeds,” the notice reads.

MSNA spokeswomen Vanessa Sylvester said on Monday that the hospital’s plan to move OB-GYN surgeries out of the Grant 7 suite shows a lack of commitment to the community and to new families in the area.

“MSNA opposes these layoffs as unsafe and has filed a grievance,” she said. “We hope the medical center will reconsider these plans.”

Hospital and union officials plan to meet Thursday morning to discuss the changes.

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