July 23, 2014

Elyria
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Union to talk about Mercy layoffs

LORAIN — With Mercy Regional Medical Center cutting 18 positions, Service Employee International Union District 1199 representatives plan to meet at 1 p.m. Monday with Mercy officials about the impact.

“We are deeply concerned about the quality care this community relies on,” said Al Bacon, SEIU Secretary-Treasurer, in a Wednesday news release. “The dedicated employees who would be displaced by this decision are experienced caregivers who provide vital services to our community.”

Bacon didn’t return a call Wednesday, but union spokesman Anthony Caldwell said 12 people will be laid off with the remaining positions going unfilled. Mercy spokesman Janis Yergan said five fulltime union workers and one part-time union worker and six fulltime nonunion workers and one part-time nonunion employee are to be laid off. Mercy has about 2,100 employees including nearly 600 union workers. Yergan said she didn’t how many management employees Mercy has.

The layoffs are part of $4.1 million in savings which included eliminating unfilled positions, voluntary time-off programs and reduced purchases of services and supplies. Yergan said the cuts are due to $1.8 million less in Medicare reimbursements this year because of federal budget cuts called sequestration. After Congressional Republicans seeking deficit reduction threatened to allow the nation to default in 2011, President Obama proposed $1.2 trillion in cuts over 10 years if a compromise budget couldn’t be reached. The first round of cuts began in March with $85 billion in reductions.

Besides sequestration, hospitals nationally are seeing shrinking Medicare reimbursements as part of attempts to cut unnecessary costs by switching from fees for services to rewarding evidence-based medical care. Mercy has been affected.

Tuesday’s layoff announcement came after Mercy laid off 20 nonunion employees in October as part of $10 million in cuts in response to less Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements and shorter hospital stays. In November, Mercy cut pension benefits for most of its nurses as part of a new three-year contract after bitter union negotiations that included unfulfilled strike threats.

Yergan said Mercy provided $28.9 million in uncompensated costs last year which includes charity cases, community services and non-reimbursed Medicaid costs. Yergan said patient care will not be compromised by the cuts which she described as difficult, but necessary.

“With declining reimbursements and increasing costs and an increasing burden of providing care for the poor and disenfranchised, we get faced with this every day,” she said. “It’s very tough and we have to continually retool to make sure that we can continue to fulfill our objectives in terms of providing care for the community.”

Yergan said administrators, including CEO and President Ed Oley – whose total compensation was $705,000 last year according to the Internal Revenue Service – are taking wage freezes. She wouldn’t say how much the freezes will save, but said administrators will take on additional responsibilities.

However, Caldwell said laying off administrators would increase savings and not affect patient care. “There are ways to lesson the impact on the community,” he said. “It doesn’t have to start with the people who have day to day contact with your patients.”

Yergan said the announcement was handled properly, but Caldwell said Mercy blindsided workers. He said organizations the SEIU deals with usually meet with the union before announcing layoffs. “Workers were definitely shocked,” he said.

Hospital ailing

Facing reduced Medicare reimbursements, Mercy Regional Medical Center announced 18 job cuts Tuesday. Mercy last year laid off 20 nonunion employees as part of $10 million in cuts in response to lower Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, less private reimbursements and shorter hospital stays.

  • Annual budgeted income: $3.4 million
  • Annual operating income: $1.1 million
  • Projected deficit: $3.8 million
  • Uncompensated care delivered in 2012: $28.9 million
  • Total employees: 2,100 (including nearly 600 unionized employees)

Source: Mercy Regional Medical Center

Mercy layoffs

Twelves workers are being laid off as part of 18 job cuts at Mercy Regional Medical Center, according to preliminary figures from the Service Employees International Union District 1199.

  • Registered nurse in diagnostics
  • Two registered nurses in diabetic education
  • Care coordinator
  • Home health care manager
  • Maintenance mechanic for the cancer program
  • Secretary in occupational health
  • Office assistant in staffing
  • Secretary in the surgery ward
  • Laboratory secretary
  • Phlebotomist

Source: SEIU District 1199

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.