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FARMINGTON — San Juan Regional Medical Center June 27 announced staff layoffs as part of an effort to cut costs and increase bill collections. The cuts impacted about 78 employees, 5 percent of the hospital’s staff, hospital Public Relations Coordinator Laura Werbner said.

The hospital “began implementing a Workforce Planning Initiative this morning as part of a larger plan to strengthen the organization and allow us to sustain our service to the community,” Werbner said via email on June 27.

The hospital’s nurse-to-patient ratio for inpatient care will not be affected, according to the hospital’s June 27 press release. Werbner did not have information about how many of the jobs were full-time positions. She said on June 28 that  the layoffs will not affect any current hospital services or clinics.

CEO cites 'economic turmoil' and other factors

“San Juan County and the Four Corners have experienced considerable economic turmoil over the last several years," hospital CEO Jeff Bourgeois said in a prepared release. “We have witnessed cut backs in nearly every industry. Unfortunately, our organization is not immune to these same financial challenges. Throughout our hospital’s evolution, we remain dedicated to our mission: the ability to serve our community."

Bourgeois said the move was necessary. For the medical center to “remain a sustainable contributor to the Four Corners area, we must face our new financial reality head-on and make some tough decisions, including this workforce reduction.”

The long-term plan includes “tighter productivity standards,” cost-cutting and an “increased focus on payment collection,” the press release stated.

Bourgeois said that over the past several years several factors have impacted the hospital’s budget:

• Significant and declining supplemental payment program funding.

• Fewer patients with commercial insurance coverage and more patients with lower reimbursement from governmental programs.

• Fewer inpatient admissions “due to declining area population.”

• An increase in outpatient services, which Bourgeois said is “an industry-wide transition.”

Hospital's board backs plan

The 194-bed hospital is a nonprofit acute-care facility with a Level 3 trauma center and the only hospital in San Juan County. It operates a non-emergency clinic and offers a variety of health care services including behavioral health and a new specialty clinic in Durango, Colorado.

The head of the hospital’s board said the plan should result in annual savings and let the facility remain an independent and community-owned hospital.

“With these efforts, we feel confident we can meet our financial responsibilities and continue to provide high quality healthcare to the patients we are privileged to serve,” said Board Chair Ron Rosen. “Our Board of Directors fully supports these initiatives and wishes to thank our community for their support.”

San Juan County Public Relations Manager Devin Neeley said June 28 that the county has no official comment on the layoffs.

Farmington's Economic Development Director Warren Unsicker also declined to comment June 28, referring questions to the city's official spokesperson, Georgette Allen, who could not be reached by press time.

Contact John R. Moses at 505-564-4624 or via email at jmoses@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e

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