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January 31. 2013 4:32PM

Keene hospital laying off 13 staff

KEENE - Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene said 13 employees are being laid off as the hospital grapples with declining revenue and decreasing state and federal reimbursements.

"I am extremely sorry this action is needed. This reduction in force is necessary for us to strengthen our organization to ensure a sustainable health system for our community," Art Nichols, CEO of Cheshire Medical Center, said in a statement Wednesday. "The state of New Hampshire suddenly stopped reimbursing our Medicaid Enhancement Tax (MET) in 2011 and that has cost us over $11 million in the last 18 months. These are times of great change in health care. Change can be challenging and comes with tough decisions. Today is certainly one of those times."

Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock is currently attempting to find a way to make up the $7 million loss anticipated from losing the state's corresponding Medicaid Enhancement Tax.

A total of 34 full-time equivalent positions across both organizations were eliminated and are expected to save $3.2 million for the medical center over the next two years.

About a third of the jobs, or 22, are currently vacant so those positions will go unfilled.The remaining 13 positions are held by employees who are receiving notice that their jobs have been eliminated, hospital officials said Wednesday. Some of those employees will be offered unfilled, open positions within the organization.

The staff cuts represent approximately 3 percent of the Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene's current staff levels and should decrease salaries and benefits by approximately $1 million in 2013 and $2.2 million in 2014.

"During this process we are being careful to preserve as many services as possible for our community as we move toward a value-based health system with a focus on population health and keeping patients healthy. These initial reductions should not affect our ability to provide the same array of services as we have in the past. And our focus will always continue to be on quality assurance and providing the highest-quality health care for our community," said chief financial officer Jill Batty in the statement.

Along with the staff cuts, Batty said Thursday the organization was making the overall $7 million reduction in other ways including focusing on innovation and improvement in operations, developing non-salary related cost-saving strategies, strengthening collaborative relationships with other health care organizations and hospitals, and finally through program elimination.


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