Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center Lays Off 89 Because of Workers’ Compensation Costs, Nurse Staffing Rules
Officials for Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center on Wednesday issued 60-day termination notices to 89 employees, blaming the layoffs on increased workers' compensation insurance costs and the state-mandated nurse-to-patient staffing ratio rules, the Los Angeles Daily News reports (Dobuzinskis, Los Angeles Daily News, 6/10). The new nurse staffing regulations, which took effect Jan. 1, state that nurses do not have to care for more than eight patients at a time. The regulations call for one nurse per five patients in medical-surgical units by 2005, as well as one nurse per four patients in specialty care and telemetry units and one nurse per three patients in step-down units by 2008. In addition, the law states that licensed vocational nurses can comprise no more than 50% of the licensed nurses assigned to patient care and that only registered nurses can care for critical trauma patients. The rules also require at least one registered nurse to serve as a triage nurse in emergency departments (California Healthline, 5/28).
The layoffs, which account for about 4% of the not-for-profit hospital's staff, include laundry workers, managers, secretaries, clerks, technicians and nurses in positions that are not covered by the nurse ratio rules. The layoffs and the closure of the hospital laundry unit are expected to save the hospital $1 million by the end of 2004 and $4 million in 2005. Hospital officials said that workers' compensation costs are projected to be $6.7 million higher than last year and that it will cost the hospital about $3.8 million this year to comply with the nurse staffing rules, the Daily News reports. "If we would not have taken this action to lower our cost we would be jeopardizing our future financial stability," hospital Administrator Patrick Petre said. He added that increased medical malpractice costs also contributed to the layoffs.
Dan Boyle, a spokesperson for the hospital, said that the hospital has hired temporary nurses to meet the ratio requirements. According to the Daily News, St. Joseph Medical Center will try to "soften the blow" of the layoffs by offering on-site job fairs and potentially providing work to laid-off employees in other parts of the Providence Health System. Jennifer Kelly, a spokesperson for the Service Employees International Union, which represents unionized workers at the hospital, objected to the layoffs, saying, "It takes an entire team to care for patients. So, saying that the hospital is going to meet the nurse-to-patient ratio by laying off other employees, they are not acting in the best interest of the patients" (Los Angeles Daily News, 6/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.