LUMBERTON — Despite anticipated cuts in payments from Medicaid and Medicare, the president of Southeastern Health says the health system will not experience “massive layoffs.”
But there have been recent layoffs, Two vice president positions were eliminated, one VP position was filled. One director position was eliminated, and one director position consolidated as a result of an announced retirement. The hospital did not released the names of the affected employees.
“Southeastern Health has not implemented, nor are we planning massive layoffs,” Joann Anderson said in a statement. “We have closed some positions that were vacant and we have reduced less than five leadership roles as a result of expected cuts in payments next year from Medicare, Medicaid and the decision to not expand Medicaid in North Carolina.”
Anderson said that one nursing unit has been closed as a result of an anticipated decrease in admissions, but all staff were “reallocated” to vacant positions. She did not specify exactly what positions, nor the number of positions affected by the closing of the nursing unit.
Anderson also said that the health system does not anticipate that Southeastern Health Park Phase I will be affected. The park, to be built on the west side of Interstate 95, is planned as a surgical facility.
Anderson said there will be through natural attrition a reduction next year in an unspecified number of Southeastern Health’s employees. She said that is a result of the health system’s anticipated decrease in government reimbursements and a decline in admissions.
According to the statement, all departments are being asked by the health system to “consider every open position as a possible closed position.”
“But we will continue to fill positions in those areas where it would be a detriment to patient care and efficient operations when needed,” Anderson said.
State Sen. Michael Walters, who represents Robeson and Columbus counties, said this morning that he is concerned about the financial effect, especially on the state’s rural hospitals, of reductions in Medicare and Medicaid payments. He also said the state “made a big mistake” when it failed to approve Medicaid expansion.
“Our rural hospitals are most affected by these reductions because of our indigent versus private pay mix,” Walters said. “Our payer mix is difficult because we have so much poverty.”
Walters said that Columbus County Hospital, in Whiteville, cut its staff this week by 4 percent.
About three years ago, economic pressures took a toll on Southeastern Regional Medical Center, leading to 112 jobs being cut, almost 5 percent of the workforce. The layoffs were part of an organizational restructuring plan that officials said would save $7.5 million a year.