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Latest News - December 2010

November 11, 2010
Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital to Lay Off More Than 100
Source: The Herald
By: Larry Parsons

Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital said Friday it will lay off 100 to 120 employees within a few weeks to trim operating costs.

Workers to receive layoff notices are nurses represented by the California Nurses Association and other employees represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers. The unions represent 1,445 of Salinas Valley Memorial's 1,900 workers.

"Layoffs are always the last resort," said Bev Ransenberger, operations vice president. "We are very sad and regretful people are going to lose their jobs. These are longtime friends and colleagues."

Ransenberger, mindful the layoffs are coming during the holiday season, said, "There is never a good time for layoffs."

Hospital officials said nine of every 10 U.S. hospitals have been making cutbacks because of economic tough times.

John Borsos, vice president of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, blasted Salinas Valley Memorial's decision, saying "what is clear is the cuts appear to be driven by the hospital's quest to maximize profit."

Hospital nurse Jeanne Hayashi, a representative of the nurses' union at Salinas Valley Memorial, said she could see the reasoning for the layoffs but said they are taking an emotional toll on her colleagues.

"It's very sad, very difficult on everybody," Hayashi said.

The layoffs, which hospital officials said were discussed with union representatives, were announced early Friday in a companywide memo from Salinas Valley Memorial president Sam Downing.

The memo said the hospital, which trimmed 205 employees since July through buyouts, retirements and attrition, needed to cut another 5 percent to 6 percent of its work force by Dec. 31.

"Even with the reductions we have achieved through voluntary buyouts earlier this year, we remain in a higher percentile in staff size for comparable hospitals," Downing said.

A hospital statement on the layoffs said it is part of an effort "to embrace the new realities of health care," including lower government reimbursements for Medicare and Medi-Cal, pending health care reform and increased numbers of uninsured patients.

"In health care, we have been seeing some difficult trends for all organizations," Hayashi said.

Ransenberger said the cost savings to be realized by the staff cuts haven't been "totally quantified."

The nurses' union contract calls for two-week notices, so those layoff notices will go to employees within two to three days, she said. The other union doesn't have a specified time frame, she said.

"We are working closely to give them reasonable notice," she said. "We have been working very closely with our unions."

She said about 40 nurses will get layoff notices and the other layoffs will come amid the unit assistants, clerical workers, housekeepers, nutrition workers and other employees represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers.

Borsos said the hospital is acting without considering "what kind of impact these cuts will have on patient care."

Hospital spokeswoman Adrienne Laurent said, "Our quality of care won't suffer at all." She said the hospital exceeds patient-nurse ratios set by state law.

Hayashi agreed, saying nurses "are always about excellent care for our patients."

Borsos said the hospital could look at other areas to trim expenses — including executive salaries and management levels.

"We believe the hospital has to make a case there is a decline in work to justify the layoffs," he said.

Borsos blamed the layoffs on Salinas Valley Memorial's hiring of a hospital consultant with a reputation for recommending deep staff cuts.

Laurent said Salinas Valley Memorial is facing the same financial challenges other hospitals are facing.

"It's not a reaction to this month's budget, but we are looking at what's coming down the road," she said.

Ransenberger said the layoffs were a collaborative decision between the hospital board and administrators.

Laid-off employees will be offered career counseling, preferential rehiring and "assured first-opportunity" jobs that they qualify for, Ransenberger said.

The hospital said it is taking other steps to trim costs and save money, including "renegotiating contract terms with vendors, reviewing supplier assignments and process improvements."



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