MMH to trim positions without layoffs

Marietta Memorial Hospital is looking to reduce the number of positions to deal with changes in how health care is being provided, but is not planning layoffs for the time being, officials said.

Hospital officials have been meeting this week with staff throughout the organization to discuss changes in health care delivery nationwide and how those changes may affect local operations, said Jennifer Offenberger, director of marketing and public relations for the Memorial Health System.

“We have been meeting with staff throughout our organization this week to talk about today’s health care environment and what steps our organization will be taking to ensure that we remain a strong system that provides care locally in our region,” Offenberger said Wednesday.

Many issues are impacting the health care industry and providers are being challenged to refine how they deliver care, she said. Officials cannot attribute one specific cause for the changes.

Cuts in Medicare and the baby boomer generation getting older and needing more access to care are part of the hospital’s need to redesign its processes, Offenberger said.

“We’re challenged to improve quality and service while simultaneously reducing costs,” Offenberger said. “Hospitals across the country are faced with these same issues.”

Staff are worried some people might be losing their jobs.

Offenberger said that is not the case.

“Our message to our staff, is to explain that we must be proactive now, and prepare for the future in which we’ll have significant reimbursement cuts from Medicare and other targets we must meet to be reimbursed,” she said. “Our goal is to take advantage of the growth we’ve been experiencing the past several years and anticipate again this year.

“While we’ve grown, though, our labor costs have grown as well. In the future, we will need to grow, while keeping labor and other costs lower than the growth, if we want to remain strong,” Offenberger said.

The hospital has plans to reduce labor costs, including new staffing models, improving processes while having zero waste and providing tools and automation that support the employees while continuing to grow the hospital’s services, she said.

“We’re also looking at a reduction of labor through natural attrition and early retirement opportunities,” Offenberger said. “We believe, working together and implementing these things, in concert with our growth, we’ll be in a position to avoid layoffs and to continue to provide the personal care and services we want for our community into the future.”

Officials did not have a specific number of positions that will need to be eliminated.

“A specific number is challenging to quantify at this time,” Offenberger said.

Memorial Health System recently began work in Belpre on the third phase of the expansion of the medical campus on Farson Street, which will include a free-standing, 24-hour emergency department and endoscopy services.

“When a need is indicated, we will hire thoughtfully as we move into the future,” Offenberger said.

The Belpre Emergency Department is scheduled to open in 2014. Officials expect it to be staffed in one of three ways. First, existing employees from the emergency department wanting to transfer to the location. Second, hiring emergency trained nurses as the staffing need dictates, and third, by reassigning current employees to the new location.

“As we adjust our staffing models and improve our processes, we will have a portion of labor that will be reassigned to other areas of our health system,” Offenberger said. “One factor that differentiates us from other hospitals is our employees; they are our greatest asset.

“These are uncertain times and we are confident that with the support of our employees we will be able to face these challenges and provide the exceptional care our community needs,” Offenberger said.