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Phoebe Health System cuts 33 leadership jobs

Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital

Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital

ALBANY — Looking at $5 million lost to changes in regulations and reimbursements, Phoebe Putney Health System has trimmed 33 leadership positions, including vice president- and team leader-level positions at locations throughout the system.

Phoebe President/CEO announced today that the management-level reorganization, which has been under way since August, has been completed. Notification was sent to those impacted by the change today.

In a letter to employees, Wernick said the work force reduction was difficult but necessary to meet a changing health care environment with profound changes in reimbursements. He said hospitals nationwide were having to adjust to loss of volume, reimbursement reductions, new regulations and reform uncertainties.

“Every day I read about hospitals in similar situations,” he said, “such as Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, forced last month to lay off 100 people as a result of changes in health care, and Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, expected to cut more than 1,000 positions by the end of the year.

“For the past several years we have aggressively attacked non-personnel costs, such as managing our supplies and processes. We approached labor cost controls through attrition, or not filling vacant positions as appropriate, but the economic outlook we face today demands a deeper restructuring and we have no choice but to meet this challenge head-on.”

There was indication that some of those who were terminated by Phoebe might be able return in different roles.

“While our leadership model has been streamlined, we do have vacant positions within the health system, and employees who are impacted are being given priority consideration for these positions.” Dave Baranski, senior vice president for human resources for Phoebe Health System, said. “We will work diligently with those employees to help them find other positions within the organization and all eligible employees are being offered severance packages.”

Kerry Loudermilk, Phoebe chief financial officer, said other changes in regulations and reimbursement have impacted operations, including sequestration. Georgia’s state government, meanwhile, chose to not expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, resulting in millions of mostly federal dollars not being available for the treatment of Georgians.

“This has dramatic impact in our area of the state,” he said, “which has a high number of indigent and uninsured citizens.”

Phoebe leadership has adopted a three-tiered approach to expense reduction: non-labor expenses, labor productivity, and process improvement and re-engineering. Phoebe has also engaged employees, seeking additional cost reduction and process change ideas.

“For us to continue to serve the health care needs of our community, we must become more efficient. We have seen a monumental increase in the number of people applying for Medicaid and financial assistance. As recently as last week, a Health and Human Services official reminded local leaders that Dougherty County alone has more than 26,000 uninsured residents,” Wernick said.

He said Phoebe’s goal is to perform in the top 10 percent of all hospitals in quality, outcomes and patient satisfaction.

“Phoebe has a more-than-100-year history of caring for the people of our community,” he said. “While there is a lot of uncertainty in today’s health care environment, one thing is certain: Phoebe is dedicated to serving and will innovate and evolve to ensure we continue to fulfill our commitment to the health care needs of Southwest Georgia for the next 100 years.”