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Hospital plans layoffs due to budget shortfalls

Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital in Grass Valley is planning to lay off 10 to 20 employees because of budget shortfalls, perhaps as early as the first of the year. Approximately 850 people work there.

The hospital’s Executive Council met Friday morning about the layoffs to decide how many and who will be involved, said hospital public relations director Gary Cooke.

“Nothing was resolved … in terms of details or numbers or anything like that,” Cooke said. “This is a very hard thing to do, because the hospital is a family. Your co-workers are your friends.”



But he said the administration feels it is the right thing to do because the hospital must be financially healthy in order to serve the community.

“The reductions in staff will not be taken from direct patient care areas,” Cooke added.




At the midpoint of its fiscal year, Cooke said, the hospital is $2 million behind where it should be in its annual $80 million operating budget, despite months of efforts to cut back.

“It is vital for us meet budget expectations as we plan for the future,” Cooke said.

The hospital is planning to completely replace itself in several phases to meet the needs of a growing community, including an outpatient diagnostic imaging center; doubling the size of the emergency room; and a three-story patient tower that would increase bed capacity from 104 to 151.

The hospital’s emergency room was built to handle 18,000 visits a year, Cooke noted, but now is serving 30,000. “And the need is expected to grow in coming years as the number of seniors … increases. We have to be ready,” he said.

Cooke said that with today’s increasing access to information, patients are becoming much more knowledgeable about technological advances in medicine, “and their expectations for their medical care continues to rise.”

Although the hospital has no competition in Nevada County and the area is geographically isolated, the economic downturn has had a negative effect on the hospital’s revenues.

Earlier efforts to cut back include freezing travel and limiting hires only to the most critical jobs. In his department, Cooke said, he has put off plans to develop the hospital’s Web site (www.snmh.org).

He said the layoffs will come soon, if not by Jan. 1, then sometime in January.

A reporter for The Union wandered through the hospital Friday evening seeking comment from employees potentially affected by the layoffs. Two employees declined comment, and the reporter was advised to not interview anyone else on hospital premises.

– Managing Editor Richard Somerville contributed to this

story.


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