St. Mary Medical Center to cut staff positions

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WALLA WALLA — Providence St. Mary Medical Center is in the process of a staff reduction that will eliminate about 10 positions in a move to adapt to changes in health-care utilization.

The Poplar Street hospital is cutting about 1 percent of its 900-plus employee work force, largely concentrated in departments that have seen declines in patients in recent years, said Kathleen Obenland, the medical center’s director of public affairs.

Obenland said some staff members have moved from eliminated positions into other open seats at the facility.

Notification to the 10 people losing their positions began last week and will continue this week. Consequently, Obenland declined to elaborate further on whose jobs are affected.

She said the reduction will not be noticeable to patients and will have no impact on patient care.

The majority of the staff reduction is from positions such as nursing and related jobs.

Obenland said declines in inpatient services have affected health-care institutions across the country. With health-care reform and high-deductible insurance plans, she said there’s been a shift to care in less expensive settings and more of an effort for people to avoid hospitalization.

Those leaving Providence St. Mary and Providence Medical Group will receive severance packages, counseling and assistance finding other employment, she said.

No more reductions are planned by Providence St. Mary and Providence Medical Group, Obenland said. However, with the health-care landscape changing so rapidly, it’s too soon to predict what might happen in the coming year, especially with hospital use decreasing.

Obenland said Providence Health & Services, St. Mary’s parent organization, will be affected in a separate shift of its own. Staff who work at the facility include billing, insurance, registration and more. Some of them were recently notified that positions will be moved to centralized locations in other cities over the next few months.

Although several new jobs will be created for staff who work face-to-face with patients, Obenland said the net result will be some layoffs. She did not yet have a number Friday.

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