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Hospital initiates round of layoffs

A decrease in patient traffic and subsequent lost revenue haveresulted in a round of job cuts at King’s Daughters Medical Center,hospital officials said Tuesday.

KDMC Chief Executive Officer Alvin Hoover said approximately 15positions have been eliminated through attrition and layoffs, andthe number could reach as high as 40 before the current round ofcuts is complete in two weeks. Mostly administrative and technicaljobs have been cut so far, he said, but some clinical positionswill also be eliminated.

The cuts would represent a workforce reduction of 7 percent forKDMC, one of Lincoln County’s five largest employers withapproximately 570 full- and part-time employees. The reductionmarks the first round of layoffs for the hospital since 2005, when12 employees were let go, according to a KDMC press release.

Hoover said the layoffs will not affect physicians, who arecontract employees.

Additionally, all the hospital’s medical services – such as the newWound Healing Center, the Sleep Care Center and the Quick CareClinic – will be maintained. Hoover said he hopes such serviceswill further diversify the hospital’s revenue stream over time.

Hoover said the cuts are the result of a decrease in patient volumethat began during the summer, combined with an increase in debt andan overall bad economy. He indicated released employees could behired back in the future if conditions improve.

The goal of the cuts, Hoover said, is to trim approximately $1million from the hospital’s annual expenditures. If the hospital’sfinancial situation does not improve, he said further job cuts maybe necessary.

“We hope this will be the only workforce reduction we have toexperience, but given what’s going on in the economy, we just can’tsay it’s not going to get any worse than it is now,” he said.

KDMC Chief Development Officer Johnny Rainer said patient volumehas fallen in recent months because of a decrease in outpatient andinpatient elective procedures.

The summer months are traditionally slow, he said. But the expectedupturn that usually comes with fall never happened in 2008, andmost of the hospital’s 122 beds have remained empty.

Fiscal year 2009 began on a sour note in October, Rainer said, andthe trend has continued through December. He did not providespecific figures, but said the hospital’s revenue loss over thelast three months is “in the neighborhood” of $1 million.

“We’ve got 50 people in the hospital, and during peak time, 70 to80 patients is the norm,” he said. “We’re praying this month willbe better.”

Rainer said he hopes elective surgeries will increase in numberover the Christmas holidays, when patients usually scheduleoperations that can be delayed until insurance deductibles are metor vacation time from work is used.

Rainer said the hospital’s $12 million expansion and renovationproject has also hindered efficiency and contributed to the poorfinancial situation on a smaller scale. He said the ongoingconstruction is a cycle of taking beds out of service, renovating,restoring service and repeating the process in another area of thehospital.

“It’s just been a complicating factor,” Rainer said. “Theconstruction has made it difficult to access all the bed space,staff the hospital efficiently and get patients in and out.”

Rainer said any future additions to the hospital – such as newfacilities, technology and staff – will be looked at with a”critical eye” in an effort to tighten spending. He said thehospital may move toward collaboration with out-of-town specialiststo meet new service needs.

“Santa Claus may not leave a lot under the tree this year,” Rainersaid.

Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Executive VicePresident Cliff Brumfield said KDMC’s layoffs serve as a reminderof the national economic downturn, in which Brookhaven has fairedrelatively well up to this point.

“People need to keep in mind that we’re in the worst economicdownturn the nation has seen in 60 or 70 years,” he said. “Just aswe’ve had to all make changes in how we handle our own lives andhousekeeping, so are our area businesses and service centers. We’vebeen very fortunate that Brookhaven has not seen any other majorcutbacks in employment in recent weeks.”