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October 21, 2014

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Layoffs at University Medical Center called necessary, overdue

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Sam Morris

The entrance to University Medical Center’s trauma unit and emergency room is shown in 2009.

Layoffs at University Medical Center are expected to save $21 million in the next nine months and help make the public hospital more sustainable, officials said today.

“This isn’t something we want to do, but there’s an understanding of why we’re doing it,” CEO Lawrence Barnard said, reflecting on some of the reactions he’s gotten from hospital staff. “We need to structure ourselves in a way that’s sustainable.”

The layoffs, announced on Wednesday, eliminated 285 positions for nurses, office assistants and other support staff. As a result, UMC is ending its outpatient oncology, outpatient pharmacy and Lied clinic services, impacting about 1,000 outpatients, officials said.

The layoffs represent about 8 percent of UMC’s workforce and include 61 open positions that will remain unfilled.

Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said the layoffs are unfortunate, but “the realization is that maybe it should have been done before. The sooner the better on this sort of thing...This was a bold step that was necessary and probably overdue.”

Barnard said patients most impacted by the cuts will be those who came to the hospital largely via social services. He said UMC tried to make cuts in areas or services provided by other hospitals.

Barnard said some patients might be covered under the Affordable Care Act and others via Medicaid managed care plans.

“We are working with Nevada Health Centers (a federally funded community health center) to accommodate those who don’t make enough to have managed Medicaid but are not in a position to where ACA insurance is something they want to purchase,” he said.

As for laid-off employees, UMC is reaching out to other hospitals, “making sure they’re aware of this, doing job-interview training, resume training, anything to (aid) the transition,” Barnard said.

As the only public hospital in Southern Nevada, UMC provides millions of dollars of uncompensated care each year to patients without insurance, exacerbating its financial woes.

The hospital eliminated 105 positions and closed four of its satellite clinics in April in an attempt to reduce costs.

The hospital needed a $70 million subsidy from Clark County this year to balance its budget. It also took out an additional $45 million in emergency loans earlier this year to avoid a cash shortage that could have left the hospital unable to pay its bills.​

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