April 15, 2009 in City

Deaconess cuts jobs as fewer seek treatment

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Deaconess Medical Center is eliminating about 90 jobs as the recession hits what had been an area of strength in the local economy.

Fewer people used the hospital last winter, and hospital executives are searching for savings.

Even as layoff notices are being delivered this week, hospital executives announced plans to invest $10 million on new medical equipment and technology – an initiative launched last fall by the hospital’s new owner, Community Health Systems Inc.

Much of that money will be spent on the emergency room, cardiology, cancer care and women’s services.

Deaconess spokeswomen Christine Varela said the recession is causing people to postpone elective surgeries and other treatments and avoid hospitalization in cases where only a year ago they would have sought help. Coupled with a mild flu season, the number of beds filled with paying patients has fallen compared with last year.

Also, more uninsured people are seeking treatment.

The numbers could worsen as the recession grips health care, normally an employment refuge in a bad economy.

The Deaconess cuts were announced a few weeks after officials said layoffs also are looming at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Providence Holy Family Hospital.

And the Shriners Hospital for Children in Spokane, which employs 170 people, is on a closure list.

Valley Hospital and Medical Center will not lay off employees, Varela said.

Deaconess declined to provide specific financial information and patient numbers that led it to the layoff decision.

Now that the hospital is owned by a for-profit company, Varela said, it will no longer release performance information about individual properties.

Most of the Deaconess job cuts are not related to direct patient care, she said, though they will be spread throughout the 388-bed hospital and affect nurses, technicians, administrators and others.

In a prepared statement, hospital executives said they attempted to eliminate jobs through attrition and reassignments.

Executives were not made available for interviews Tuesday. They issued a press release to announce the layoffs.

The hospital plans to save money on supplies by participating in a group purchasing agreement with its parent company. Travel, marketing and other administrative costs will be pared, Varela added.

“These economic times are scary,” she said.

Contact John Stucke at johnst@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5419.


There is one comment on this story. Click here to view comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email