San Pedro Peninsula Hospital, striving to overcome an estimated $9 million in losses in the last two years, has laid off 52 additional employees and reduced the work hours of 26 more in a move hospital officials said will save $1.2 million a year.
Hospital President John Wilson said the action was a painful but necessary step for the financial security of the hospital, which is in the midst of a program to cut costs and promote certain services as recommended by the national accounting firm of Ernst & Whinney. The layoffs took effect at the end of May.
Direct Patient Care Spared
Layoffs affected full-time and part-time employees--primarily secretaries and clerks--in a variety of departments, according to hospital spokesman John Calderone. He said employees involved in direct patient care were not affected.
The layoffs are the latest in a series of cost-cutting measures. In May, the hospital shut down in-patient psychiatric services, laying off 25 employees. It also announced that it will close the family practice residency program at the end of June, dropping 19 more employees. The hospital will also sell its outpatient dialysis unit, which has a 13-member staff. Wilson said these three moves will save the hospital $700,000 to $800,000 a year.
The question of who will care for the 3,260 active family practice patients, 95% of them on Medi-Cal, after June 30 was answered Thursday. The hospital announced that these patients will be randomly assigned to 58 family practice, internal medicine and pediatric physicians on the hospital's staff who have agreed to take them as patients.
Dr. Bruce N. Goldreyer, hospital chief of staff, called the plan an "excellent solution" to the problem of providing health services to patients who otherwise might not be taken by physicians in private practice.
"It provides people with care at least as good as they would have had otherwise," he said, adding that the hospital's medical executive committee committed the staff doctors to participation.
Dr. Robert Avina, the director of family practice residency program who was sharply critical of the closure without a one-year phase-out, called the plan "the best practical solution we can arrive at." But he called it "not ideal" because families now seen together by one physician may be assigned to different doctors.
He said letters will be sent to all patients this week telling them of their new doctor and advising them to contact the doctor within 60 days. Two hundred pregnant patients have already been assigned to staff obstetricians.
All of the laid-off employees received severance pay, according to Calderone, who said the "grand majority" of them got 60 days' salary. The hospital also paid a Torrance job placement service $3,000 to provide the employees with a two-day group seminar on job-seeking techniques and assistance in finding new jobs.
He said most of the group are looking for jobs, and it is too early to assess how they did in getting new jobs.
The layoffs stemmed from a conclusion by Ernest & Whinney that the 64-year-old community hospital has been overstaffed in comparison to hospitals of similar size. Calderone said the layoffs reduce staffing from the previous level of six employees for every patient to five for each patient.
He said that when all layoffs and the sale of the dialysis unit are completed, the hospital will have a staff of 800.
A second Ernst & Whinney study, focused on a restructuring of the hospital, will be implemented starting July 1, Calderone said, adding that more layoffs are possible.