Sullivan County Democrat
Callicoon, New York
June 21, 2013 Issue
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"This was an incredibly painful decision, and one we really agonized over.' – CRMC Board Chairman Darrell Supak

Hospital layoffs called 'catastrophic'

Story by Dan Hust
HARRIS — May 21, 2013 — Blaming “substantial reductions” in federal and state funding, plus revenue losses from healthcare reform and reduced patient volume, the parent of Catskill Regional Medical Center (CRMC) announced yesterday that it is laying off staff.
The equivalent of 60 full-time positions – including top management like CEO Fred Kuriger and the director of nursing – are being cut immediately, according to the Greater Hudson Valley Health System (GHVHS), which oversees both CRMC and Orange Regional (ORMC).
ORMC is losing the equivalent of 80 full-time positions. Combined, the cuts affect about five percent of the hospitals’ workforce.
Kuriger will be replaced by Dr. Gerard Galarneau, who will also remain the hospital’s chief medical officer. The goal at CRMC is to reduce expenses by $5 million a year, said GHVHS spokesman Rob Lee.
“This was an incredibly painful decision, and one we really agonized over,” remarked CRMC Board Chair and GHVHS Board Vice Chair Darrell Supak. “... Our hand was really forced.”
Though some of the nursing staff is impacted, officials said no “front-line” nurses will be cut, and the focus remains on maintaining quality and safety in patient care while reducing “overstaffed” areas at both the Harris and Callicoon locations.
At ORMC’s brand new facility in Middletown, costs are being slashed by $12 million.
“While we value every position within the System, we are making every effort to minimize the impact within nursing and departments that provide direct patient care,” stated GHVHS President/CEO Scott Batulis.
“It is with heartfelt sadness that our need to reduce staffing has come at a time in which our highly productive workforce is ranked among the top 25 percent in productivity for hospitals across the nation,” he added.
“Federal sequestration cuts and other major reimbursement reductions hit hard and fast,” Batulis concluded, “without any transition plan or conversion funding that would have allowed us to reduce costs through attrition or other means.”
He said affected staff will be aided in their search for a new job.
About 300 CRMC employees are represented by the 1199SEIU union. Spokesperson Mindy Berman could not say at press time yesterday how many were affected, but she did note that her union had only been notified of the ORMC layoffs, despite the union’s contract requiring such notification from CRMC as well.
“At the moment, the union’s main concern is making sure that the healthcare workers will be able to provide the community with the quality care they deserve,” Berman explained.
Martha Wilcox, board member of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA, which represents CRMC’s registered nurses), noted that the county “has a strong history of being an underserved population.”
This won’t help, especially in the far busier summer months, she added, worried that long waits at the emergency room will only increase, as will the potential for errors.
“To be doing this amount of layoffs will be catastrophic for the Sullivan County community,” Wilcox stated.
GHVHS doesn’t plan any further layoffs, but Supak admitted he can’t predict what will happen, especially in light of changing healthcare dynamics.
“This is as candid as I can make it: I don’t know,” Supak acknowledged. “I can tell you that we’ll do what it takes to keep the doors of the hospital open.”
Community Health Survey Set
Separately, GHVHS has scheduled public forums for a Community Needs Health Assessment it’s conducting “to identify and prioritize our community’s healthcare needs so that the GHVHS can develop strategies and implementation plans that most benefit the public.”
Those forums – in the form of paid 90-minute survey sessions by contracted firm Holleran – are scheduled for Sullivan County residents on June 11 at 4:30 and 7 p.m. at Bernie’s Holiday Restaurant in Rock Hill.
Registration is required. Call 1-800-218-6468.

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