Hospital staff gets pink slips
Talk of the cuts had circulated for a week at the two former St. Francis medical centers
Hawaii Medical Center handed out formal layoff notices yesterday to about 10 percent of its work force, citing a deteriorating financial and staffing situation at its two recently purchased hospitals.
The new owners of the former St. Francis hospitals notified 210 full- and part-time employees of the 1,634-member work force that their jobs were being eliminated or, in a few cases, reclassified.
HMC said 102 full-time employees received notices, 11 of whom will either have a change in status or in job title. In addition, the company said it distributed letters to 70 part-timers as well as 38 call-ins, who have no regular schedule and work only on call.
Talk of the impending layoffs had swirled this week through Hawaii Medical Center West in Ewa Beach and Hawaii Medical Center East in Liliha, but HMC officials declined to publicly acknowledge layoffs were planned until yesterday.
Dr. Danelo Canete, chief executive of Hawaii Medical Center, confirmed the layoffs yesterday after staff members were officially notified.
"We have been forced by financial circumstances to make the difficult decision to eliminate around 10 percent total of the positions," Canete said. "We have taken this action reluctantly and with full understanding that it will impact the lives of good people who have served our institution and its patients well."
St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii, which closed a $68 million deal last month to sell the hospitals to HMC, said in a May 26, 2006, newsletter to employees that HMC had committed to hire all employees for at least one year. However, Canete said yesterday that the situation had changed since that time.
"Based on information available to us when we began negotiations to purchase the hospitals, we believed that we could restructure our work force without layoffs," he said. "However, by the time we assumed responsibility for the hospitals, the financial and staffing situation had substantially deteriorated. It was apparent that immediate action was necessary to protect the hospitals."
The Hawaii Teamsters and Allied Workers Union Local 996 was the hardest hit by the layoffs, with 86 members, or about 17 percent of its 500 members, being affected.
Teamsters Business Agent Jeanne Ishikawa said its members received 21-day notices.
The Teamsters earlier this week filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over layoff notifications and procedures.
"Although some of our members are able to transfer into different positions and retain employment at HMC, the bottom line is HMC betrayed our trust and the community's trust when it took over the two St. Francis Medical Center facilities a couple of weeks ago," Teamsters President Ron Kozuma said in a statement. "The Teamsters firmly believes this layoff to be an illegal action taken by the employer and we are actively pursuing further legal actions on behalf of all our affected members. In the meantime, we are talking with our members about their future options."
The Teamsters represents technicians, licensed practical nurses, housekeepers and dietary and maintenance workers at the hospitals.
Canete heads the 130-member Hawaii Physicians Group, which owns a 49 percent stake in Hawaii Medical Center. The remaining 51 percent is owned by Wichita, Kan.-based CHA LLC, formerly known as Cardiovascular Hospitals of America.
The company yesterday didn't break down which types of positions that were being affected, although it told the Teamsters in a Thursday meeting that cuts would be across the board.
Aggie Pigao Cadiz, executive director of the Hawaii Nurses Association, said she met with company representatives yesterday and was told no registered nurses would be laid off. However, she expressed concern that layoffs of licensed practical nurses and patient care technicians would increase the RNs' workload and possibly affect patient care.
"What they told us in the meeting is that their goal is to move to a model where there are sufficient RNs to care for the number of patients that are there, which would result into more efficient, effective care," Pigao Cadiz said. "The goal is that the RNs are able to spend more time at the bedside with the patient. The goal is great, but the devil is in the details. Now we have to see how this will impact the care the nurse is able to give to the patient."
Canete said the layoffs were necessary to ensure the hospitals' future. "We are confident that we are laying the groundwork for a financially secure Hawaii Medical Center that will provide the highest quality of care to our community," he said.