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Ogdensburg hospital announces layoffs, position changes to ease budgetary pressures

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OGDENSBURG - Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center has laid off six more workers and eliminated a total of nine positions to cope with increased costs and shrinking revenue.

In a news release issued Monday, the hospital announced it has also realigned the duties of 13 other employees, including several managers, to make the positions more cost-effective.

Claxton-Hepburn President and CEO Mark A. Webster said in the announcement that the changes would bring “staffing levels more in line with patient demands.”

The staffing changes will not affect quality of care, he said.

Medical center spokeswoman Laura C. Shea said the employees affected work in various departments and are a combination of direct-care and support staff. She said she could not specify in what departments direct-care staff worked, but said some of the workers affected will be able to apply for other vacant positions within the hospital.

“We are hopeful this is the only time we will have to do this because it’s never easy,” she said. “We will continue to re-evaluate in the coming months, and not only look at the labor expenses, but any other expenses we can decrease to avoid having to do this in the future.”

The hospital in July laid off eight workers due to an expected decrease in Medicaid reimbursement. The hospital expects to receive $450,000 less in Medicaid reimbursement this year than last, and expects to receive $806,000 less in reimbursement next year. The reimbursement cuts are expected to grow annually under the federal Affordable Care Act of 2011.

Sixty-five percent of medical center patients’ care is funded by Medicaid or Medicare.

The hospital’s annual operating budget is $93 million. Of that, $54,250,000 pays for the medical center’s 671 full- and part-time employees.

Mrs. Shea said the layoffs are not a reactionary measure to urgent budgetary pressures, but are intended as part of a long-term strategy to shore up the medical center’s finances.

“It is not that we are in dire straits and need to do something quickly,” she said. “This is part of a profitability plan that we started in July. We are doing this to remain strong.”

The hospital has so far this year provided $950,000 in charity care, which is almost double the figure from last year, she said. Mrs. Shea said hospital officials expect to provide around $1 million in charity care by the end of the year.

Charity care is offered to needy patients based on whether they meet federal poverty guidelines and their ability to pay for treatment. Some patients qualify for free care.

The medical center had a total of $3.9 million that was unable to be collected from patients last year, she said. She was unable to supply a figure for how much the hospital’s unpaid patient bills total so far this year.

“That $3.9 million figure is both charity care and bad debt combined,” she said. “We expect it to be the same, if not more, this year.”

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