Blue Hill hospital buyout plan announced to avoid layoffs

By Mario Moretto, BDN Staff
Posted Sept. 06, 2012, at 12:22 p.m.

BLUE HILL, Maine — Blue Hill Memorial Hospital has announced a buyout plan aimed at creating permanent budget reductions and avoiding layoffs, according to a news release from the hospital.

The hospital is calling its initiative a “voluntary separation incentive plan,” under which all employees can apply for the buyouts, but administrators may choose to deny some applications.

BHMH used dire language in describing the need for the buyout program, saying the hospital “must be ready to embrace the changes on our doorsteps or face the consequences of failing to keep pace — which could mean an end to health care delivery as we know it on the peninsula.”

The hospital employs 323 people, whose salaries and benefits amount to nearly $20 million per year, according to president and CEO Greg Roraff. Administrators don’t have a number yet of how many employees they’re looking to buy out or how much money they’re looking to save, Raroff said in a Thursday interview.

The hospital is poised to break even in fiscal year 2012, but that’s not enough, Raroff said.

“Like any business, a break-even really isn’t sustainable,” he said Thursday. “You have to generate a margin to build your balance sheet and make investments.”

But the buyout plan isn’t just about saving money on the operations end, Raroff said. It’s also an effort toward reorganization for when the hospital joins other Eastern Maine Healthcare System facilities in adopting an “accountable care” operation model.

Raroff said accountable care is a shift in how the hospital does business, as well as how it’s paid. It means a focus on, and financial incentives for, patient well-being, rather than on Medicare reimbursements based on the number of visits and procedures conducted at the hospital. It’s part of the plan for savings put forward by President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, he said.

“We’re preparing for the future,” Raroff said. “Looking toward the future and how we’ll deliver care.”

The buyout program has launched just one month after the hospital announced the acquisition of two adjacent properties, at 18 and 24 Parker Point Road. The hospital bought the two properties last month for an undisclosed price.

Raroff said the purchases were made to accommodate future growth at the hospital. Even in the midst of buyouts and the spectre of layoffs, he said, a company still must plan for the future.

“We couldn’t maintain state-of-the-art services if we weren’t looking to the future and making capital investments,” he said.

Still, the hospital recognizes that the juxtaposition of buyouts and property grabs may be jarring to residents. They’re hosting a community meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18, at Blue Hill Town Hall to “listen to community concerns and ideas, as well as share the facts.”

They’ll also launch a task force to assist the hospital in developing plans for the BHMH campus, including the new properties.

Watch bangordailynews.com for updates.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/09/06/news/hancock/blue-hill-hospital-buyout-plan-announced-to-avoid-layoffs/ printed on July 24, 2014