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Features Health & Wellness Medwest suffers a round of layoffs

Action due to low patient volume and loss of revenue.

To meet the decrease in revenue by declining patient volume and the increase in operational costs, Steve Heatherly, President and CEO of WestCare hospitals announced last Tuesday that between the three hospitals, MedWest-Harris, MedWest-Swain, and MedWest-Haywood, MedWest would be laying off 86 employees.

MedWest-Harris, an 86-bed, not-for-profit acute care facility located in Jackson County, which is a fully-accredited hospital and has been providing care to the surrounding areas since 1929, MedWest-Harris was forced to lay off 24 positions.

MedWest-Swain, which is a fully-accredited Critical Access Hospital located in Swain County and has been serving the patients of Swain and Graham counties since 1948, was to reduce staffing by two positions.

MedWest-Haywood, which is a not-forprofit public hospital located in Haywood County and licensed for 189 beds, was created in 1927 as the first county hospital in North Carolina. It experienced the greatest reduction in staff by laying off 56 positions.

“These actions are being taken with the understanding and support of the MedWest and the WestCare boards in response to management recommendations,” said Heatherly in a memo to WestCare Staff and Medical Staff, WestCare Board, and Med- West Board last Tuesday regarding layoffs at Swain and Harris. “As difficult as the decision has been to reduce staffing levels, we firmly believe this is the right course of action to help our hospitals secure a stronger future.”

Heatherly's memo noted that the hospital managers are working with the employees impacted by the reductions in order to make every effort to assist them as they transition from their current roles. “We sincerely appreciate their commitment and service to our hospitals,” said Heatherly.

MedWest was formed in January 2010 with the affiliation of WestCare – Harris and Swain – with Haywood Regional Medical Center. The partnership was an attempt to join forces to increase management productivity and cut down on repeat costs throughout the facilities.

John Young, interim CEO at MedWest- Haywood, Group Vice-President, Carolinas Heathcare System sent out a similar memo regarding the Haywood hospital, offered the same reasons for the staff reductions. “The adjustments fall into a cross section of hospital departments,”said Young. “In no way will direct patient care be compromised by these necessary changes.”

Heatherly noted that the decision to lay off employees was not an easy one, but was necessary in order for the three hospitals to effectively serve the thousands of patients in the community. “We believe that these adjustments, given our current volumes, will quickly strengthen our financial position and move us toward a more sustainable, viable organization,” said Heatherly.

Although the layoffs are expected to lighten the financial burden the hospitals are facing in the coming months due to fewer patients, Heatherly noted that the staffing adjustments alone will not provide an immediate fix-all. “We have an outstanding medical staff and dedicated employees at our hospitals and outpatient care locations providing high quality healthcare to our patients each and every day,” said Heatherly. “We must serve our patients and engage our community in ways that motivate and drive patients to choose their local doctors and their local hospitals for their care and treatment where they can remain close to home and be near family.”

“The challenges facing rural hospitals are daunting,” read both memos. “Successfully meeting these challenges required a concerted effort involving the continued commitment of our employees and the engagement of medical staff who work together to provide high quality care and excellent customer service in the most efficient manner possible.”


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