WC to close care center, cut jobs

January 12, 2009 10:50:02 AM PST
The Westchester Medical Center's Board of Directors approved an interim $766 million budget Monday that partially addresses a $70 million cut in Medicaid and other reimbursement from New York State for 2009 and beyond. The approved budget includes an approximately $40 million expense reduction plan that calls for the closing of the Taylor Care Center skilled nursing facility on April 1, 2009, and a reduction in the Medical Center's workforce, totaling up to 400 positions in 2009.

"It has become clear that the depth of the national crisis is such that Westchester Medical Center will have to make changes in the way it operates and we will be forced to close or downsize some programs and reduce staff in 2009," President and CEO Michael Israel said. "The actions we are taking are based on economic pressures beyond our control that are impacting every hospital and organization in the state and nation."

Israel said that the current economic situation is impacting every hospital in the nation and that Westchester Medical Center's prime responsibility is to protect its core mission by eliminating some programs so that other programs continue to be well supported from both a staffing and quality perspective.

"Providing the highest level of patient care is and will always be our highest priority," Israel said. "Over the past three years, WMC has made significant progress, with 2008 completing three straight years of profitable operations, a laudable accomplishment for any hospital in New York State."

Israel added that because of much hard work, Westchester Medical Center has been able to make lasting investments in the organization in terms of technology, infrastructure and staff. This past year alone, WMC has received national acclaim for improved fiscal and quality performance and patient satisfaction as well as clinical excellence.

Israel said that the Medical Center has received approval from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) to close the skilled nursing facility, which currently operates 100 beds. In 2007, under a mandate from the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century (the Berger Commission), the Taylor Care Center reduced its bed capacity by 140 beds to 181 beds. Last year, Westchester Medical Center received approval from the NYSDOH to downsize the facility even further, with a transition to 91 beds.

Israel said that the Berger Commission felt that Westchester County as a whole had an excess of nursing home beds, not allowing all facilities to operate profitably. Even at a reduced capacity, the Taylor Care Center continued to operate at a deficit.

"Keeping in mind that today there are a good number of vacant nursing home beds in the county, we are committed to working with each resident and his or her family on making the transition to another long-term care facility as smooth as possible," Israel added.

Israel said that Taylor Care Center's approximately 190 staff members will be impacted by the closing.

In addition to the positions that will be eliminated at Taylor Care Center, the Board has approved a further reduction in the Medical Center's workforce, with both actions totaling up to 400 positions slated for elimination, including some under a potential voluntary resignation package option.

"It is important to note that even with a reduction in force, Westchester Medical Center will still have 300 more positions, mainly bedside nurses, in its core mission services than it did four years ago," Israel said. He added that the reduction includes an elimination of more than 26 percent of executive and management positions. There will be no reduction in the number of bedside nurses.

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