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In financial bind, BMC to cut staff and services

Associated Press | 12/23/2008, 3:24 a.m.

Boston Medical Center (BMC) is making cuts to staff and services to deal with a massive reduction in state aid.

The hospital announced last Wednesday that 250 people from various departments will either lose their jobs or have their hours reduced. The personnel moves are expected to save $10.5 million, according to a BMC statement, and will affect services in both the clinical and administrative operations of the hospital.

BMC says state budget cuts mean it will receive $84 million less in state supplemental payments, as well as a $30 million reduction in Medicaid rates. The hospital said state government would pay just 64 cents of every dollar it costs to give care to low income patients.

“When the state made the recent cuts to close the budget gap — and the administration cut Medicaid and health care funds as much as they did — Boston Medical Center felt more than its fair share of the pain,” said BMC President and CEO Elaine Ullian.

Impacted departments include obstetrics, primary care, pediatrics, family medicine, geriatrics, radiology, nursing, interpreter services, administration, public safety, information technology and finance, according to the hospital.

The hospital also said it will save $35 million by reducing capital spending and deferring several major projects; eliminate support to Quincy Medical Center beginning in the summer of 2009; and cut $14 million in various non-salary expenses over two years.

Ullian said the cuts disproportionately affected the hospital because more than half of its patients are low-income individuals, “and they are the people who are most hurt by any reduction in access or services.”

The CEO suggested that the cuts highlight a key impending question: What is the future of so-called “safety net hospitals,” which provide a significant level of care to low-income, uninsured and vulnerable patients, under the state’s health care reform law?

“While the goal of health care reform is to expand coverage, it is imperative that we not diminish the access that the newly insured count on,” she said. “For everyone who cares about access and quality of care for the most vulnerable, as well as the future of health care reform, this is a very serious issue and one that deserves a true public debate.”

In its statement, the hospital said it would likely be forced to take additional measures to cut expenses and reduce operating costs “in response to the state’s actions,” citing increased demand for hospital services even as it loses funding and reduces personnel.

“Boston Medical Center is seeing record numbers of patients,” according to the statement. “The hospital is operating at nearly full capacity and is committed to providing exceptional patient care.”

(Associated Press)