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Providence lays off 44 hospital employees

Providence Health Care has laid off 44 employees and reassigned 45 others at its two large Spokane hospitals.

The numbers are lower than feared last winter, when executives hinted at hundreds of job losses to cope with a deepening recession and the resulting cutbacks in government health care spending and unpaid medical bills.

Among the layoffs were 33 at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and 11 at Providence Holy Family Hospital, spokeswoman Maureen Goins said.

The layoffs occurred over many weeks and included 19 managers, she said.

Employees who lost their jobs were offered severance. A recall program will award them priority when the company fills open positions.

The hospitals said job losses were held down as Sacred Heart and Holy Family consolidated some management functions. Also, the hospitals reduced discretionary spending, froze executive salaries, reworked staffing guidelines and levels, and initiated a hiring freeze.

Sacred Heart had 3,980 full-time workers earlier this year – 330 more than afforded in the hospital’s 2009 operating budget.

While the job losses were regrettable, Goins said, three unions representing many employees were consulted in an attempt to match job skills with open positions to hold down layoffs.

In a note to employees, chief executive officer Dr. Andrew Agwunobi said the two hospitals have resolved a $9 million budget shortfall over the first six months of the year.

Yet the hospitals may still face another $7 million in cuts during the next six months to handle lower Medicaid reimbursements from the state.

Agwunobi said the cost-saving measures – including hiring restrictions – would be kept in place along with further shared services between the hospitals.

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