Boone Hospital Center laid off 50 employees Monday, citing declining numbers of patients and government payments as financial constraints that forced the move.
Boone Hospital spokesman Ben Cornelius issued a statement Monday announcing the layoffs, most affecting managerial and support staff. Staff were notified of the layoffs Monday morning.
The statement also indicated that the county-owned hospital will close its inpatient pediatrics nursing unit. It was unclear exactly when that would happen or whether the move would mean additional layoffs.
Boone Hospital, with about 1,700 total workers, is the fifth largest employer in the five-county region that includes Boone, Cole, Callaway, Cooper and Audrain counties, according to the non-profit Missouri CORE, an economic development group.
The layoffs come as the Boone Hospital Center Board of Trustees continues negotiations with MU Health Care for a possible merger of operations. Boone Hospital is managed by St. Louis-based BJC Health Systems under a lease arrangement that expires in 2020.
The trustees and BJC each have until December 2018 to notify the other entity whether they want to continue the lease or allow it to expire.
Several trustees said before their closed meeting Monday night that the staff cuts came from BJC, and that the trustees had no say in the matter.
“We’re the top ranked hospital in mid-Missouri and those 50 people that lost their jobs today, they’re a big part of that, and to no fault of their own they’re out of a job,” Board Chairman Brian Neuner said. “We are very disappointed. We communicated that to local administrations, and we went to St. Louis and said ‘can you find another way?’ So this is where we’re at and we’ve got to work together to move forward.”
Boone Hospital Center last year issued a request for proposals for new partnerships. After initially narrowing its options to five and soliciting public input at a handful of community meetings, the trustees decided to move forward on negotiations with MU Health Care.
The trustees over the past several weeks have held a series of closed meetings to discuss the potential merger. Another such meeting was scheduled for 6:30 Monday night in the hospital’s Conference Center, Room C.
The statement announcing the layoffs said affected employees would receive “comprehensive severance” and help finding new jobs. It included no details about the severance the employees would receive.
Cornelius said he had nothing to add to the statement. “With respect to those impacted by this decision, we will not be providing any additional information at this time.”
He declined to answer questions about:
- How much money the layoffs would save.
- What the hospital’s total personnel costs are.
- How affected employees were notified of the layoffs.
- What their severance packages would be.
- How much of a decline the hospital has seen in patient numbers and government payments.
- What would happen to any patients at the pediatric nursing unit, and how many patients that unit has.
- What else the hospital has done to reduce costs.
- Whether further layoffs should be anticipated.
Here’s the full text of the hospital’s statement:
“Across the nation, community hospitals are experiencing significant downturns in utilization. Similarly, at Boone Hospital Center, we are seeing lower inpatient volumes and more patients who are now insured with high deductible health insurance plans and consequently avoiding hospitalization. As the government reduces spending to address the budget deficit, payments to hospitals, including Boone Hospital Center, are declining. We must remain focused on ensuring Boone Hospital Center continues to stay financially strong to ensure we can deliver on our mission of improving the health of the people and communities we serve during this challenging time for the health care industry. In response to these realities, on Monday, October 2, Boone Hospital Center notified employees of a workforce reduction displacing approximately 50 members of our 1,700-member team.
Boone Hospital Center has taken a number of actions to address our financial challenges including making reductions in areas that would not directly affect our valued employees. The majority of impacted positions are in managerial and support roles. Our employees whose positions will be directly impacted will be supported through this transition with comprehensive severance, outplacement services and access to the Boone Hospital Center Employee Assistance Program. Boone Hospital Center will also be closing our inpatient pediatrics nursing unit.
These are difficult times that now unfortunately impact our Boone Hospital family. But, we know that these decisions and actions are critically important as we continue our mission of improving the health of the people and communities we serve.”
Missourian reporters Joe Siess and Andrew Withers contributed to this report.