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Everett's Providence hospital to slash up to 175 jobs

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By Julie Muhlstein
Herald Writer
EVERETT -- As many as 175 jobs could be cut by Providence Regional Medical Center Everett by late October, the hospital announced today.
The loss of jobs is intended to stem a big budget shortfall. The hospital will cut about 4 percent of its staff through involuntary and voluntary layoffs, said Dave Brooks, the organization's chief executive officer.
Through July, halfway through the hospital's fiscal year, the budget was about $10 million behind expectations. Providence Regional Medical Center has an annual budget of more than $600 million.
The reduction target is 150 to 175 positions, Brooks said. "The key there is positions, not people," he said. "We don't know the number of people that means yet. The number is likely to be lower as some positions may not be filled, or may be filled through contract help."
Providence Regional Medical Center has about 3,500 staff members and about 2,600 full-time positions.
Brooks said workers this week will receive information about a new voluntary layoff program. "The goal is to lessen how many will be involuntarily laid off," he said. The voluntary layoff offer includes severance pay, continuation of benefits and assistance in trying to find a new job, with benefits depending on seniority, Brooks said.
To be eligible, a staff member must be working half-time or more, Brooks said. Not everyone who asks for a voluntary layoff will be granted one. Brooks said requests filled will depend on staffing needs.
Brooks said he expects involuntary layoffs to be completed by the end of October. He hopes about a third of staff cuts will come from voluntary layoffs.
He said there are three main causes of the budget shortfall. Medicaid payments to the hospital are projected to fall $15 million short this year. Patient volume is also down. That's due to the effects of the poor economy on people seeking health care and competition from other hospitals, Brooks said.
Uncompensated care provided by the hospital is also up significantly. In 2009, Brooks said, Providence provided $42 million in what he calls "community benefit." Last year it was $52 million. This year, Brooks said the hospital is on track to provide $70 million in uncompensated care.
The hospital has one of the state's busiest emergency rooms, with more than 110,000 patient visits in 2010.
In June, the hospital opened its new 12-story, $460 million Providence Cymbaluk Medical Tower. Brooks said the budget shortfall was not caused by that project. "We're performing right at budget for the cost of the tower and what we expected from it," he said. "If we didn't have the tower, our volumes would be even softer."
He acknowledged that some support positions were added at the much larger facility. Brooks said that 75 percent of similar-sized hospitals use more people to do the same amount of work, and 25 percent of hospitals use smaller staffs.
Brooks said a team of about 15 senior leaders at the hospital, representing administration, finance, operations, patient care and support services, meets regularly to determine staffing needs.
"It's a sad time for leaders," he said. "My view is, any one position is someone's livelihood you're taking away."
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460,

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