Adirondack Health is one of several health care organizations across the North Country to announce layoffs in recent months. Last week, Claxton Hepburn Medical Center in Ogdensburg announced it was laying off six employees and had eliminated a total of nine positions.
Last month, Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital Medical Center in Plattsburgh laid off 17 employees. Also last month, Glens Falls Hospital announced it was eliminating 29 positions and reducing five other employees to part-time hours.
Adirondack Health officials attributed the shortfall to a drop-off in inpatient volume and declining reimbursements.
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Although the announcement of layoffs was a shock to many of his co-workers, Pat Valentine, a nurse at Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake, said they knew the hospital was facing a significant deficit.
Adirondack Health President and CEO Chandler Ralph said the 17 employees who lost their jobs Friday aren't from any particular facility or area.
"It's across the board: food service, nursing, management," Ralph said. "We took a real careful look at the volume in all areas of services that we offer [and said], 'Do we still need that number of people to deliver the services we're delivering.' It was not an easy decision and obviously a very painful one."
In addition to the layoffs, the hospital is not filling another eight vacant positions and freezing management salaries for 2013. It's also outsourcing its medical transcription services and asking its employee unions to reopen their contracts.
Ralph blamed the restructuring on a shift toward more home-based care, the effort to reduce patient readmissions and a growing demand for outpatient services. That's all led to a 10 to 20 percent decline in inpatient stays at the Saranac Lake hospital over the last two to three years.
"The models of yesterday are not the models of tomorrow for delivering health care. It's all good, the direction we're going in, keeping people at home and not being readmitted to the hospital, but that has a definite effect on the volume going forward, and whenever you reduce volume, you have to reduce staff accordingly," Ralph said. "Every business does that."
Declining reimbursements from state and federal sources are the other big reason for the restructuring, Ralph said.
Valentine he understands why the cuts had to be made, although he said that doesn't make it any easier for his co-workers who lost their jobs. "What it comes down to is hospital stays are getting so much shorter now," Valentine said. "It used to be people were in the hospital five, six and seven days at a time. Now it's like one, maybe two days. They just aren't bringing in the revenue."
Adirondack Health employed 900 people before the layoffs and is the Tri-Lakes area's biggest private employer.