Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

Local News

April 16, 2014

T.J. Samson Community Hospital announces job, salary cuts

Nearly 50 employees losing positions

GLASGOW — Staff and salary cuts being implemented immediately at T.J. Samson Community Hospital are expected to result in savings of about $3.6 million between now and Sept. 30, according to the hospital’s interim CEO, Henry Royse.

Royse announced in a news conference Wednesday at the T.J. Health Pavilion that as many as 49 employees from across the hospital will lose their jobs. Meanwhile, wide-ranging salary reductions will affect any employee making more than $10 an hour, all the way up to senior management.

The salary cuts – 10 percent for senior management and salaried physicians, and between 2 percent and 6 percent for employees making more than $10 an hour – are effective through Sept. 30, but the personnel cuts are permanent.

“As this area’s leading health care provider, T.J. Samson has a responsibility to meet the health care needs of this community,” Royse said. “Our employees take tremendous pride in doing that each and every day. As leaders of T.J. Regional Health (the hospital’s parent company), we have a responsibility to do what’s right and best for the future and the long-term ability of us to serve the patients, to grow to meet the community’s needs and to meet our mission. Sometimes that means making tough, but necessary, decisions.”

Royse attributed the actions to two challenges: a “the costly rollout of an inadequate software program” and the impact of the Affordable Care Act. The integrated patient accounting software was mandated by government reforms, he said.

“From the onset, we selected one of the nation’s premier vendors for this process,” Royse said. “However, one year after going live, the product’s inoperability is still costing the hospital tens of millions of dollars in unrecoverable bad debt, consultant fees and lost productivity.”

The computer software was developed by Siemens, Royse told the Daily Times later Wednesday. The problems became apparent as bills could not be sent for 60 days, he said.

“On top of that, we couldn’t send bills to collection agencies on aged accounts until around February of this year,” Royse said. “They promised us it would interface with physician software, and to this day, we haven’t been able to get that working.”

Several other issues have surfaced as a result of the software’s inadequacies – among them is an inability to produce necessary reports to monitor various aspects of the business.

“We have two different consultant companies here working to resolve the issue, as well as Siemens’ having its own people here, trying to work through all of this,” he said.

The software problems generated short-term issues, Royse said, and longer-term issues exist as the hospital adapts to the ACA.

“The new law instantly added 300,000 Kentuckians to Medicaid-eligible rolls,” Royse said at the news conference. “At the same time, Medicaid reimbursements – that is the amount Medicaid pays for hospital care – continue to decline. So using simple math, we’re being paid less and less by the government for patients who now have insurance through the government. And with 3,300 more Medicaid enrollees in Barren County alone, we must make the changes.”

All but a few of the employees whose jobs were eliminated had been informed of the decision by Wednesday evening, Royse said. Others had not been available for various reasons.

Royse said that despite the challenges facing the hospital, there are reasons to be encouraged about T.J. Samson’s future.

“Volumes across the entire T.J. Regional Health organization continue to grow at historic rates,” he said. “The utilization of (services) verifies the community’s dependence on us for their health care needs, and we confidently accept that responsibility.

“I’m making a promise to everyone that these actions, however painful, will not affect the quality of care or access to care that drives the nearly 1,200 employees at T.J. Samson each and every day.”

The two employees of Your Wellness Place at the T.J. Health Pavilion are among those affected. Laura Belcher, chief of planning and business development for T.J. Regional Health, confirmed that those positions were among those eliminated.

Nurse educator Susie Bishop sent a farewell email Wednesday afternoon to several members of the community saying she had “been informed that Your Wellness Place will be closing effective at the end of business today. T.J. Samson has been a great employer and has provided many opportunities to work within the area. I will miss you all. This is such a wonderful, giving community and I have been blessed to work with each of you.”

Tina Wheat is a licensed practical nurse who had worked at the hospital 12 years, almost entirely in the skilled nursing unit – essentially a short-term rehabilitation area of the hospital. Wheat said she received a call Wednesday afternoon before she was scheduled to work an extra 12-hour shift and was asked to come to the human resources department.

Wheat said she was told that because of financial problems the hospital was having, her position was being terminated. She was told it had nothing to do with job performance and was more a function of hiring date.

Wheat said she couldn’t help but wonder whether her layoff might have been avoided if three people in her unit who were eligible for an early retirement package that was offered last year had accepted.

“I’m thinking, ‘Why couldn’t they have retired? I have two small kids,’ “ she said. Her children are ages 6 and 7, and hers was the only salary coming into the household.

However, Royse said the early retirement option was unrelated to the financial issues he discussed Wednesday.

“We just felt like we had a lot of people who could take advantage of it,” he said.

Belcher said determinations about which jobs would be cut were based on a few factors, including staffing in proportion to patient load and seniority.

“Performance evaluations and appraisals were not utilized in this process,” she said.

Responding to a couple of concerns Wheat voiced to the Daily Times, Belcher said employees whose jobs were cut will have insurance until the end of the month, and vacation and certain other accrued days for which the hospital normally pays departing employees will be paid as well.

Wheat said her job meant “everything” to her.

“I loved working there,” Wheat said. “I’ve been a nurse for 22 years, and I loved going to work. It’s just like, now you don’t have anything.”

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