June 18, 2018
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Millinocket hospital forced to lay off three, cut workers’ hours

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

MILLINOCKET, Maine — Three workers at Millinocket Regional Hospital will be laid off and nine others cut to part time on Aug. 1 as part of a plan to offset a $1.5 million budget shortfall and a $500,000 operational loss, the hospital’s chief executive officer said Thursday.

The reorganization comes in response to cuts in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, a 13 percent reduction in the Katahdin region’s population from 2001 to 2010, and increased medical costs, CEO Marie Vienneau said.

The layoffs “will have no impact on clinical services. These were all in areas that were clerical or support services,” she said Thursday.

The layoffs and reductions in hours will help the hospital save about $550,000 over the next fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2013. The general surgery clinic and some hospital management practices also were reorganized, Vienneau said.

To help reduce costs, the hospital’s fitness and wellness center will cut its hours entirely on weekends and reduce its weekday schedule by two hours a day so that it will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Vienneau said.

The cardiac rehabilitation unit will cut its hours from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays to 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Vienneau said. The cut in hours should not imperil patients’ abilities to get services, she said.

Located on Somerset Street, the facility is a 25-bed critical access hospital that provides primary care and specialty services, including family practice, internal medicine, orthopedics, general surgery, ENT surgery, radiology, and urology. Visiting consultants offer cardiology, OB/GYN, ophthalmology, podiatry and oncology services, according to the hospital’s website, mrhme.org.

The hospital joins facilities in Calais and Bangor that have been forced to lay off workers and curtail services over the last year, partly in response to Medicaid cuts.

The hospital has plans to increase revenues and cut more costs. A new general surgeon will begin work in September, which should draw more patients to the hospital. Hospital leaders also are applying to have the hospital or some of its parts designated rural health clinics, which would increase the hospital’s revenues by $300,000. That application should be completed by November, Vienneau said.

A Maine Forest Service grant of about $230,000 will help pay for the installation of a wood boiler this fall which should significantly cut the hospital’s energy costs. The hospital will use its own matching funds to finish the project, Vienneau said.

The hospital’s overall goal is to cut expenses by $1.5 million or develop the same amount of new revenue by June 30, Vienneau said. However, a continued population decline — the 2010 census put Millinocket’s population at 4,506 — could further endanger hospital services.

“We hope that as far as position eliminations goes, this will be it. We will have to see how this continues,” Vienneau said. “If the volumes of all of our services, but particularly outpatient services, continues to decline, we might be having this conversation again in 12 months.”

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