CHULA VISTA — More than 170 full- and part-time employees of the financially strapped Bay Hospital Medical Center will be laid off Aug. 1, the hospital announced Friday.
The cuts, which will shave the 159-bed hospital's payroll by 12%, were initiated by Scripps Memorial Hospitals, which assumed control of Bay Hospital on June 20. After a 90-day trial period, during which Scripps is paying the hospital's operating costs, it will decide whether to purchase the facility.
"We have identified ways to consolidate many hospital support functions and have found other opportunities for more efficient staffing," acting administrator Jeff Bills said. A study by a productivity consultant determined that staffing levels at the nonprofit Bay Hospital--which has 900 employees--are above those of other area hospitals, including the two others operated by Scripps, he said. Terminated workers, who include full- and part-time employees, will receive two weeks' severance pay.
Spared from the cuts were doctors, registered nurses and licensed vocational nurses because the hospital wanted to avoid cutting staffers involved in "direct patient care," Bills said.
But the hospital's entire rehabilitation unit was eliminated.
Friday morning in the rehabilitation unit was "like a long game of Russian roulette," according to Sandra Hike, an occupational therapist who was told that she would be laid off after two years at the hospital.
"We all knew that layoffs were coming, but no one guessed how severe it would be," Hike said. "They called each of us individually, so when you got the call you knew exactly what it meant."
Four of the five occupational therapists were laid off, she said.
Hike speculated that rehabilitation had been targeted for the cuts because "we haven't been able to fill our beds."
"I thought the new management would try to get someone competent in to run this unit and really try to market it," she said. "The people here are shocked; they're really hurt by this."
The Scripps personnel department will be running seminars on finding jobs and will seek to place some of the staff in its two other hospitals, in La Jolla and Encinitas. But Hike said the prospects for employment as a therapist are bleak in the county.
"After 17 years now, I feel like I have to pick up and start my life all over again. I think I'll go up to San Bernardino since there seem to be a lot of good jobs up there."
The layoffs will reduce employment costs by $2 million annually, said Bay Hospital spokeswoman Stacy Kluckman, who added that figures on the hospital's losses were not yet available.
Among the problems the hospital faces is a $21.5-million debt, including $8.5 million in notes underwritten by Chula Vista that will come due in November. This debt would have to be rescheduled before Scripps would consider assuming ownership, Scripps spokeswoman Diane Yohe said.
If Scripps opts not to take over Bay Hospital, it will continue managing it for six months and will try to find another buyer, she said.
There are no plans for further cuts at this time, Kluckman said. "This is the sort of thing that you want to do all at once so that people can get the news and move on," she said.