St. John's cuts 10 jobs in order to cut costs

Friday, August 28, 2009

BERRYVILLE -- St. John's Hospital -- Berryville is instituting cost containment measures that include the reduction of eight full-time and two part-time positions effective Aug. 26.

The reduction was necessary to conserve resources and continue the provision of quality health care services to this region, said Kristy (Noble) Estrem, president of St. John's Hospital -- Berryville.

Co-workers affected were notified of the elimination of their position. It is the hope of St. John's Hospital -- Berryville that other positions can be obtained in other areas of the hospital or other Sisters of Mercy facilities, she said.

"If successful positions are not obtained, St. John's Hospital -- Berryville is prepared to provide severance packages proportional to the affected co-worker's tenure in the system," Estrem explained.

Co-workers will also receive any assistance necessary from the Employee Assistance Program which is one of the benefits of the hospital.

Hospitals across the nation are feeling first-hand the many challenges our country and community are facing during this weakened economy, she said.

"Even though the balance sheet of St. John's Hospital remains strong, St. John's Hospital -- Berryville has struggled this fiscal year to meet operational goals," Estrem explained. "Our patient volumes continue to remain lower than budgeted and the bad debt continues to rise."

She said efforts began last fall to reduce expenses hospital-wide when it was apparent the volumes were on the decline. Some of the measures put into place included:

* Reduction of discretionary spending in non-patient care areas such as staff education, travel, and sponsorships;

* Postponing non-critical capital spending; and,

* Adjustment of staff hours to match lower volumes.

"Reduction of staff was a decision we took very seriously after the realization our other cost cutting efforts were not making the impact needed," said Estrem.

"Unfortunately, due to continued economic downturn and ending the year in a substantial negative position, we had to take the next step of eliminating 10 staff positions."

She said the space currently occupied by the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) will be converted into an outpatient services department for chemotherapy, scheduled blood transfusions and other purposes. The patients formerly admitted to the ICU as hospital patients will be accommodated in an advanced care medical-surgical unit.

Estrem said the staff had been receiving quarterly updates regarding the financial condition of the hospital throughout the year so the year-end-loss did not come as a surprise to any of the co-workers.

"St. John's Hospital has worked hard to minimize the effects on the co-workers affected by the reduction," said Estrem.

According to Taya James, Director of Human Resources at St. John's Hospital -- Berryville, severance packages and job placement assistance within St. John's Health System and throughout Sisters of Mercy Health System has been a top priority.

"It is hopeful the majority of co-workers affected will choose employment options provided to them," she said. "Some open positions are available internally in other departments and other available positions may be opportunities located in other Mercy facilities such as Rogers, Cassville, Aurora, or Springfield."

"Eliminating positions was not an easy decision," said Estrem, "and it is important to realize these eliminated 'positions' in no way reflected the quality of work performed by the 'people' who served in those positions.

"Every co-worker is a valued member and an asset to our healthcare ministry. We want the community to know that we remain committed to providing uncompromised, high-quality healthcare to this region, just as we have since 1969, and we look forward to future opportunities for growth," she said.

"We ask for your thoughts and prayers for these co-workers and their families during this most difficult time."

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