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HEALTH : City of Hope Lays Off 60 Employees


In the latest sign of trouble for local health-care providers, City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte has laid off about 60 employees, making it the fourth San Gabriel Valley hospital to cut staff within the past year.

Last week's layoffs include about 40 nurses and 20 other employees from the cancer hospital's 2,000-member staff, said hospital spokeswoman Lynne Doll.

Hospital officials made the cutbacks in response to greater numbers of empty beds, since patients have shorter hospital stays than they used to, Doll said. She declined to provide specific numbers on the drop or on how much money the layoffs would save the hospital.

"We needed to get to the point where our staffing levels were consistent (with the patient census)," she said. "City of Hope has a reputation for providing state-of-the-art service to our patients, and that will absolutely continue."

But a spokeswoman for the California Nurses Assn., which represents the hospital's 480 registered nurses, questioned the necessity for layoffs, pointing out that City of Hope officials are not providing budget figures.

"We're very interested in seeing how this affects patient care; we're very concerned about it," said association spokeswoman Pat McCarthy.

Last year, three other valley hospitals announced cutbacks, citing a drop in business. Inter-Community Medical Center in Covina trimmed 50 full-time positions from its 1,100-member staff through a voluntary separation package and then later cut an additional 29 full- and part-time positions; San Gabriel Valley Medical Center in San Gabriel laid off 51 employees from its 881-member staff, and Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena provided early retirement packages for 72 of its 3,300 employees.

Other signs of weakness in the valley's health care market can be seen in a proposed merger, announced last month, between Inter-Community and West Covina's Queen of the Valley Hospital; and an affiliation agreement in 1992 between Huntington Memorial in Pasadena and Methodist Hospital of Southern California in Arcadia to share some business functions, such as purchasing and contracting.

The valley's health-care providers are feeling the pinch of a prolonged slump among hospitals in Southern California, which are trying to cope with fierce competition, Medicare reimbursement cuts and the recession.

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