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Financial Pressures Lead to Staff Reductions At DECH - Feb. 08, 2013

MACHIAS, Maine -- Beginning Monday, February 11, Down East Community Hospital is implementing a downsizing plan that eliminated the equivalent of 11 full-time positions in response to the challenges of unprecedented financial pressures and shrinking demand that all hospitals in Maine have been addressing.

Down East Community Hospital photo

While hospital volume has largely returned in comparison to five years ago when the hospital's financial position was quite strong, the failure of MaineCare payments to remain current, the payment cuts by the State Employee Health Commission and our efforts to invest in unreimbursed services for patient care management have made these changes necessary.

None of the changes that occurred are related to the governor's plan to further reduce payments to critical access hospitals that are already paid pennies on the dollar for care provided to the region's most vulnerable, uninsured patients.

Estimates on the impact of these proposed changes for Down East Community range between $1.2 and $1.6 million. The possibility that a renewed state liquor contract could bring MaineCare payments up to date has no effect on future hospital financial operations.

The hospital estimates that it owes the state a similar amount of money (approximately $700,000) for cost reports that have not yet been approved by the state of Maine.

None of the positions that were eliminated will result in closure of any programs, though that was a consideration in the planning process. Most staff members were able to bid on newly vacated positions.

According to hospital CEO, Doug Jones, "We have been planning this reduction for several months and it was our goal to create a situation where those whose positions were eliminated could bid on positions for which they were qualified and where there was normal attrition. We have largely been successful in that effort.  We simply must do less with less."

The largest, non-payroll cuts included the elimination of the use of agencies and associated agency fees for the staffing of the emergency department and employee benefit reductions that restructured health insurance benefits to more closely reflect what is offered in larger medical centers like Eastern Maine.