Barton HealthCare cuts 43 jobs | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Barton HealthCare cuts 43 jobs

Jeff Munson / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Jonah M. Kessel / Tahoe Daily Tribune

LAKE TAHOE ” UPDATE 10:30 PM ” Reflecting the ongoing economic downturn, Barton HealthCare System on Thursday announced 43 job cuts, including 26 full-time positions.

The layoffs reduced Barton’s workforce 4.3 percent, from 989 to 946 employees. The cost savings of the layoffs, plus attrition, budget and operational expense cuts amount to about $6 million, said Monica Sciuto, Barton’s public relations director.

The cuts were distributed throughout the Barton HealthCare System operations, Sciuto said. Hospital officials did not disclose which positions were eliminated or at what facilities.

Employees continue to be contacted about the layoff plan, which has been in the works and discussed among staff for several weeks, hospital officials said.

Patty Smith, a South Lake Tahoe resident and a phlebotomist with Barton for 16 years, said she was told March 2 that she would be laid off Friday, but was “stunned” when she was laid off Thursday instead.

Smith said she was saddened after being told that she would be laid off and said she isn’t entirely sure what she will do now. Smith plans to file for unemployment and is hopeful about obtaining a phlebotomy job in the Carson Valley.

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She said she intends to keep living in South Lake Tahoe.

“Even though I have been laid off from Barton, they were there for me 125 percent when my son Timmy was killed in action in Iraq,” Smith said. “They supported me and helped me out financially ” with both their Helping Hands program and the Barton medical staff.”

Despite the workforce reduction, Sciuto said the layoffs will not impact services provided at the hospital. Services have not been cut in the 71-licensed bed facility and 45-bed skilled nursing facility, and there have been no department mergers, Sciuto said. Staffing levels will be adjusted to the amount of patients coming in the doors, she added.

Barton HealthCare operates facilities in South Lake Tahoe, Incline Village and the Carson Valley.

The decision was a painful one for the nonprofit hospital, but was necessary for the organization to remain financially sound, said Sciuto. Barton’s decision to implement staff layoffs follows several cost reduction measures initiated during the past two months, including budget and operational cuts, attrition and a freeze on all training and travel.

“This has been a painstakingly difficult decision to effect staff layoffs,” said John G. Williams, Barton’s chief executive officer. “However, it is prudent that we respond to the decrease in patient volumes and the increased costs by aligning resources and expenses to remain strong as an organization and healthcare provider to our community.

“We truly regret the hardship this presents our employees and their families and we are working with them to review their options to navigate unemployment benefits including career counseling, training, severance and outplacement services,” Williams added.

“These are very challenging times for our nation, our community and for health care,” said Robert Chester, president of Barton’s board of directors. “The decision to lay off employees was a difficult one for Barton’s leadership. The board fully supports management’s decisions to ensure Barton’s on-going viability so that we can continue to provide local access to high quality, compassionate medical services.”

South Lake Tahoe City Manager David Jinkens called the layoffs a blow to the community and devastating for the people who lost their jobs.

“It is a terrible thing to have had to happen. But we know that business and government are responding to the slower economy and these are unfortunate consequences that we are all trying to avoid,” Jinkens said. “It is like losing the AAA office here in South Lake Tahoe. You are losing business and employees are losing their jobs. It’s a terrible ripple effect and very sad.”

South Lake Tahoe’s county representative echoed Jinkens’ sentiments.

“It’s devastating. I don’t know how else to respond,” said El Dorado County Board Supervisor Norma Santiago. “We’re all feeling the pinch here.”

The community as a whole is changing, Santiago said, and hospitals are dependent on the local population. All agencies are re-evaluating their organizational processes to make it through these tough times, Santiago said.

In the past five months the hospital’s admissions count has been down 17 percent, officials said, while emergency room care is down 8 percent.

The Barton Community Clinic has seen a dramatic increase in patients over the past year. Because of that increase, the hospital expects to see a larger loss on that facility, which annually costs the health care system more than $1 million.

“The hospital is proud to offer the services at the community clinic as it addresses a direct health care need of our uninsured and under-insured population in South Lake Tahoe,” Sciuto said.

The economic downturn shows that health care isn’t immune to layoffs.

“We believe this is a direct correlation with the economy. There are less visitors in town and, over the past few years, there has been a declining population which directly does affect us,” she said.

Even with the layoffs, Barton continues its commitment as a leader in the health care industry and to the community, Sciuto said.

“We are dedicated to providing the highest level of care to our patients and customers,” she said. “Despite these difficult times, there will be no interruption in our high quality patient care and services.”

The health care company operates Barton Memorial Hospital as well as an urgent care center, two seasonal ski clinics, home health and hospice services, a skilled nursing facility, an outpatient surgery center and a community clinic. Barton also offers patient services in orthopedic, family practice, internal medicine, ear, nose, throat, OBGYN, osteoporosis, general surgery and pediatric physician offices.

” Tribune staff writers Sara Thompson and Adam Jensen contributed to this story.

Total employees – 17,249

Government – 1,134

Social Services – 252

Primary and Secondary Education – 631

College and Universities – 300

Health and Medical – 1,105 (not exclusive to Barton HealthCare Systems)

Entertainment and Recreation – 474

Hotels and Lodging – 3,310

Real Estate – 506

Restaurants – 1,505

Food Markets – 401

Unemployed – 1,124 (8 percent)

Source: City of South Lake Tahoe’s Web site, southlaketahoeprospector.com