By Nathan Mayberg
HARRIS July 2, 2004 Catskill Regional Medical Center dropped 68 employees this week in a first for CEO Arthur Brien, who came online four years ago.
The cuts ranged from top to bottom, said Brien. Every department had some kind of reduction.
Brien said the move would save the medical center $3.4 million in salaries and benefits.
In addition, the hospital pulled back from its dealings with outside consulting firms which will result in approximately $1.7 million in savings.
The Livingston Manor health clinic will be totally phased out by October. Its entire staff, including its lone physican, have already been given pink slips.
Although no nurses will be lost, New York State Nurses Association spokersperson Mark Genovese remains worried.
Our concern is how the RNs will be affected because of the support staff that have been cut, he said. RNs will have to handle more paperwork . . . instead of bedside care.
Although Genovese had not heard of any more cuts (at least to the nursing staff), rumors abound at the facility that further layoffs will be announced soon.
The hospital is currently working with a budget of about $100 million, said Brien. The cuts total about $5.1 million. Catskill Regional Medical Center employs approximately 1,000 people, he said, and 40-45 percent of its costs are salaries.
Brien said one of the major reasons the hospital lost money was the failure of many of its patients to pay debts. Between $8 million and $8.5 million is not collected every year from patients who have no health insurance and who cannot afford to pay for their care or those who simply refuse to pay.
The state only reimburses the center for about $1.5 million of those debts, said Brien. That reimbursement is nowhere near adequate, he added.
The hospital is legally obligated to provide care to all patients, regardless of whether they have insurance or can afford whats not covered. If not for the bad debts, the hospital would not be going through its process of layoffs, he said.
The cutback in employees will give us some modest profit on the bottom line. Brien said he had been speaking with state representatives regularly and that they were doing all they could to obtain funding for the hospital. But he called New York States financial situation in disarray.
Still, he said he felt terrible about making the cuts.
I can only imagine what it was like for the 68 people involved.
Counselors were on hand at the hospital to help people deal with their dilemma. Members of Sullivan Countys Workforce Development team were also brought in to help the workers move on and find new jobs. Those cut were given applications for other health care facilities in the county, said Brien. (Ironically, Crystal Run Healthcare just opened in Rock Hill this very week.) They were also given tips on how to collect unemployment insurance.
This is something you dont do because you like to do it. This is something you do only because you have to, he said.
Brien still believes the hospital will be able to handle the influx of visitors this summer.
Our basic mission is to serve all of the county, he said.
The hospital has hired approximately 200 people over the last four years, he explained. He called the financial conditions of the world to be cold and brutal.
We just had to get our operation under control, he said. Unfortunately, medicine is a business.