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Latest News - July 2013

July 11, 2013
Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield announces staff cuts blaming shorter patient stays, union says doctor shortage is driving sick elsewhere
Source: The Republican
By: Jim Kenny

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Baystate Franklin Medical Center, which has been locked in an acrimonious contract negotiations with the Massachusetts Nurses Association for two years, announced job cuts Thursday that could affect 13 employees and idle as many as 10 nurses, nine in the medical surgery unit.

Charles D. Gijanto, president of Baystate Regional Markets and Baystate Franklin, said he'll offer the union a retirement incentive in order to avoid involuntary layoffs. Nurses whose jobs will be eliminated can apply for other jobs at Baystate Franklin, he said. There are four nursing openings at this time.

He said some of the nurses are in excess because shorter hospital stays mean more empty beds and less need for staffing. He said the move has nothing to do with contract talks, the most recent being Wednesday.
There are a total of 49 medical surgical nurses now, a number that would shrink to 40 when the cuts take place.

Baystate Franklin Medical Center is also redesigning the roles of one additional staff nurse and one non-union manager in the Clinical Information Systems department, and is expanding two clerk positions to also include nurse aide responsibilities.

Under the present contract, the median annual pay for a nurse working 32 to 40 hours a week was $78,800 in 2011, according to Baystate.

"Even if we had a contract in hand right now, the length of stay is what the length of stay is and we still would have had excess nurses," he said in an interview Thursday afternoon.

While Baystate Franklin's total number of medical-surgical inpatients is steady, patients' average length of stay dropped a full day from 3.4 days in 2012 to 2.4 days in 2013. Shorter stays mean that the average number of medical-surgical patients in the hospital on a given day has dropped from 28.5 to 21.3.

"Even though admissions are pretty level, that reduction has created about 2,000 empty bed days in the hospital through the first nine months of the year," Gijanto said.

Baystate Franklin's contract with the Massachusetts Nurses Association allows managers to cancel up to 24 working hours a year per nurse when patent census numbers fall. Gijanto said Baystate Franklin bumped up against those limits last month.

But nurses are complaining that Baystate Franklin itself is causing patient counts to fall because it has fewer doctors on staff.

"Baystate managers have acknowledged that the reason for a decline in census at Franklin Medical Center is that Baystate has failed to retain doctors and recruit additional doctors," wrote Linda Judd, a registered nurse and chairwoman of the Massachusetts Nurses Association bargaining unit at Baystate Franklin. "This has resulted in Franklin County patients being forced to travel to Springfield for routine services and procedures that should be provided right here in our own community hospital."

Gijanto said the hospital has lost doctors including two surgeons, a urologist and an orthopedist, in the last year dropping the number of surgeons at Baystate Franklin from 15 to 13.

Another doctor, a gastroenterologist, died last fall following an accident.

None of the three have been replaced, but the hospital has a gastroenterologist candidate.

"Nationally, specialists are very difficult to come by, everyone is looking for them," Gijanto said. "We have not met with a lot of success in our recruiting and those patients have choices. They can go to Northampton, they can go to Springfield. They can wait for a spot with one of our doctors."

Baystate Franklin has plans to renovate its operating rooms with hopes that modern facilities will help attract doctors.

Regardless of the vacancies, the problem remains, Gijanto said. Only about 10 percent of all the surgeries at Baystate Franklin require hospital stays. Most are outpatient procedures, a trend he expects to only strengthen as techniques and medications get better and more emphasis is placed on cost savings.


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