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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Hospital layoffs hit nurse aides

Sacred Heart Medical Center and Holy Family Hospital announced another 46 layoffs Monday, as the two Providence hospitals continue to adjust budgets to deal with a tough economy, fewer patients and scores of uninsured patients who are unable to pay their bills. The layoffs affected certified nursing aides. In addition, the hospital reduced the hours of five registered nurses, and accepted the voluntary resignations of two more nurses, who quit rather than accept new work assignments in different units, said Elaine Couture, chief executive of the hospitals. Together with job cuts announced last month, the two hospitals have laid off 107 employees. The number is far less than feared. Some estimated that hundreds of the approximately 6,000 people on staff at the hospitals might be handed pink slips. Couture said the cuts were painful but were needed to help achieve $7 million in savings. “We’re very hopeful that this is the end of this process,” she said. On Monday many registered nurses were offered reassignments, different shifts and other changes. It was all part of the RNs’ labor pact that requires seniority-based staffing in case of layoffs. At one point nurses were lined up in the halls awaiting word on their new job assignments or layoff. Couture said 46 certified nursing aides were let go; they typically help patients with tasks such as bathing, walking and meals. The hospitals are transitioning to a model of having all such positions and tasks handled by registered nurses, she said. Couture noted that nine managers had been laid off, along with dieticians, housekeepers, secretaries and other employees throughout the hospitals’ expansive operations. Sacred Heart remains the largest private employer in Spokane. Holy Family is among the largest, too. Together the hospitals have a combined budget of $926 million this year. Sacred Heart already had announced plans to close or consolidate some of its programs, including its outpatient wound care clinic, maternity support services, its daycare for sick children of employees, and several outpatient programs. Couture said registered nurses were laid off from those programs, but most of the cuts made so far haven’t affected hospital patient care.
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