Layoffs part of hospital's cost-cutting plan

Looking for ways to slash costs as it prepares to build a $19 million facility, The Memorial Hospital on Wednesday laid off 10 employees and announced a sizeable restructuring that would change where some Moffat County residents receive health care.

News of the cuts and restructuring comes after the hospital reported last week that it met a $1 million capital campaign goal. The news took some groups by surprise.

"While we support the construction of the new hospital and the important role that The Memorial Hospital plays in Craig, we were somewhat taken aback," said Sue Birch, director of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.

The hospital's restructuring effort includes moving all services and physicians from the lower level of the hospital to the space the association occupies.

The association, a nonprofit organization that provides a variety of community-based health services, operates in a building adjacent to and owned by the hospital, 758 Russell St. Moffat County pays the hospital for space used by the association.

Hospital officials, in a prepared statement, said the association would move inside the hospital under the restructuring. Birch said she was aware the hospital was considering such changes. But, she said, she didn't know hospital officials had made a final decision. After initial statements Wednesday about the changes, hospital officials declined to talk more about their efforts to reduce costs or about the association. They declined to elaborate about plans until board members meet with the association today. The meeting is not open to the public.

Although they plan to build a new facility, hospital officials still are paying off a large loan from the construction of the building the VNA occupies. The hospital built the VNA building eight years ago but never used it. By using the building the association occupies, the hospital could gain about $98,000 a year, officials said. The hospital would see that increase in revenues if it took advantage of building space it owns and Medicare reimbursement opportunities.

Some other changes the hospital reported would help cut costs:

Possibly moving the Care Clinic, which is at the hospital, to the Craig Medical Center

Moving its Emergency Medical Services to the north end of the hospital

Taking its physical therapy office from Centennial Mall and moving it to the north end of the hospital.

With 123 employees after the layoffs, the hospital reported it also would not fill some positions as employees retire or leave.

"It has been a difficult decision, since the employees affected have proven to be dedicated and hardworking contributors to the overall mission," board members said in a prepared statement.

The Memorial Hospital plans to begin construction next year on a $19 million hospital on 15 acres owned by Colorado Northwestern Community Coll--ege along Moffat County Road 7. With financing costs, the hospital expects to pay about $26 million for the new building.

The hospital uses the success of its capital campaign when applying for grants to help pay for the new hospital. Grant issuers want to see that the hospital has community support.

"While not all decisions will be met with excitement, we would like the understanding that in tough times, tough decisions need to be made not only to build a new hospital, but to keep our No. 1 focus on patient care and patient services," board members said.

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