While the loss of 102 jobs at Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center is a blow to hospital employees, Jeanne Otersen, a spokeswoman for the nurses union, commended CEO Thomas B. Considine for “coming in in good faith to turn around the hospital.”
Considine told employees in a letter this week that Meadowlands is cutting 102 full-time equivalent positions in the face of a 30 percent decline since May in its patient population.
Otersen said she appreciated the fact that the Health Professionals and Allied Employees union, which represents nurses and other medical professionals at the hospital, was notified Tuesday “that there would be major layoffs due to the decline in (patient) census and that he would discuss the process with the union.”
She said Considine, a former state insurance commissioner who came on board May 1, was the first CEO in years who was “willing to work with the union on a fair process with these layoffs.”
“He wants to have a better working relationship with the union (and) wants to restore the hospital,” she added.
Considine said the layoffs will have to involve more than 100 individuals in order to reach 102 full-time equivalents, and will impact “full-time, part-time and per diem employees. These cuts will come at virtually all levels and in virtually all areas of the organization.”
Otersen said the hospital has a total staff, including part-timers, of between 400 and 500, and she estimated that 20 percent face layoffs. She said the 230-bed hospital has been operating with an average of 30 to 50 occupied beds, a figure she said should be between 100 and 120.
In his letter, Considine said 4.72 hospital employees per occupied bed is considered an efficient staffing level. “In early May, we were at 10.6 employees per occupied bed. With our contraction in census, our efficiency ratio has fallen even more, and we are now at an intolerable 17.1 employees per occupied bed.”
Considine also said the management team, “including me, will be taking one unpaid furlough day per period beginning immediately.”
Otersen did call for more oversight of the hospital by the state Department of Health, which this week released a heavily redacted report on the finances of Meadowlands by consultant Executive Resources.
The first section of the report, dated Aug. 17, 2013, cited major internal financial issues at Meadowlands, including “cash flow challenges, no formal budgeting process and untimely financial statement audits.” The report said that since 2010 the hospital “has been facing multiple financial problems which have created significant cash flow challenges, exacerbating difficulties in meeting day to day financial commitments.”
But a second section of the report, dated March 5, 2013, estimated that the hospital will generate a surplus, or operating margin, of 2 percent for 2014, which the consultant said exceeds the 1 percent margin required by the state Department of Health.
In 2011, the union unsuccessfully appealed to the state Department of Health to require a patient care monitor at Meadowlands.
Dawn Thomas, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health, told NJBIZ: "The department is aware of the hospital’s financial challenges and that the hospital has new leadership working to improve its financial condition. The department is actively monitoring to assure continued access to services and compliance with regulatory requirements."
Meadowlands is a for-profit hospital owned by a group led by Dr. Richard Lipsky, chairman of the board, whose background is in the operation of ambulatory surgery centers.
Considine did predict an upturn in the fourth quarter of this year, “and 2015 will be a great year.”
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