Liberty Hospital to cut more than 100 workers - KCTV5

Liberty Hospital laying off 129 employees, blames Obamacare

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LIBERTY, MO (KCTV) -

More than 100 workers at Liberty Hospital are getting their pink slips.

The hospital said in a statement Tuesday that 129 employee positions are being eliminated this week as part of an effort to reduce expenses by $20 million. The layoffs are in a variety of departments including maintenance and nutritional services. Senior managers are also losing their jobs.

Devastated employees, including nurses, left the hospital in tears after collecting their belongings.

Amy Stone worked at Liberty Hospital for eight years, was a charge nurse on her floor. She described herself as extremely sad.

"We all knew today was the day that they were going to do this," she explained. "I thought I was high enough in seniority."

Stone said the hospital should have done more to prepare workers so that they had time to explore other options or provided additional options.

"I'm just betrayed. I've worked faithfully for a company that just turns around and says, 'Sorry.' And they wouldn't even offer me an explanation as to why," Stone said.

Rick Boswell, president of the Liberty Hospital board said the action was taken four months ago after a consultant was brought in to analyze the hospital's finances in a Strategic Performance Improvement Initiative.

"We were looking for ways to lean up without impacting patient care," Boswell said. "Most of the positions are in middle management, jobs we could eliminate without touching patient care, which is our number one priority."

Boswell said there are no plans for the hospital closing or for a potential merger, though he does say the Liberty Hospital is actively looking for ways to align with other hospitals to reduce costs and improve care.

In addition to eliminating 129 employee positions, the recommendations from Liberty Hospital's task forces also included increasing core nursing teams and building consistency by utilizing full-time employees. Some part-time nursing positions were changed to full time.

It was also recommended that eliminate the hospital-funded patient transportation program and closing of the hospital's wound clinic.

"It is our primary concern to provide the highest quality care to our patients, and not to interrupt the quality of care through these changes.  The measures we implement will focus on patient care, while allowing Liberty Hospital to remain fiscally responsible," said David Feess, President and CEO of Liberty Hospital, in a written statement.

Liberty Hospital said the 2014 Affordable Care Act would reduce payments to the hospital from Medicare, and the hospital would experience reduced payments because of lack of expansion to the Medicaid program. 

"The hospital needed to be prepared for that as opposed to waiting until that actually goes into effect," hospital spokeswoman Julie Simpson said. "Our CEO, our board of directors and our management team decided to take a look at how to be prepared for those cuts that will take place no matter what we do."

The federal healthcare reform law was designed to have the states pick up Medicaid and "when Missouri chose not to do that, it left a pretty big hole there," Simpson said.

Liberty Hospital is a 250-bed regional medical center serving Clay and Platte counties as well as the northwest Missouri corridor.

The hospital currently has more than 1,700 employees and 300 physicians. The public hospital opened in 1974.

Workers told KCTV5 that patient care will suffer because of these cuts with not enough nurses to handle patients. Liberty hospital officials deny this, saying part-time nurses were converted to full-time nurses to provide more patient care.

Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.)  All rights reserved.

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