Si­b­ley Me­mo­rial to trim its sta≠ through buy­outs

NW hos­pi­tal’s let­ter says cuts are in an­tic­i­pa­tion of ‘sig­nif­i­cant bud­get gap’

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BY THERESA VAR­GAS

Si­b­ley Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal plans to cut its staff over the next sev­eral months through vol­un­tary buy­outs, cit­ing an­tic­i­pated fi­nan­cial losses due in part to a de­cline in pa­tients, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments ob­tained by The Wash­ing­ton Post.

The North­west Wash­ing­ton hos­pi­tal, which was ac­quired by Johns Hop­kins health sys­tem in 2010, will give its em­ploy­ees just weeks to con­sider the of­fer.

A let­ter ad­dressed to staff mem­bers from hos­pi­tal Pres­i­dent Richard “Chip” Davis lays out the bleak cir­cum­stances for the buy­outs, say­ing that “we are pro­ject­ing a sig­nif­i­cant bud­get gap for fis­cal year 2018.”

In ad­di­tion to a drop in “in­pa­tient ac­tiv­ity,” the let­ter points to “ris­ing costs for la­bor, sup­plies and tech­nol­ogy.” It also de­scribes a shift in re­im­burse­ments to­ward “pay­ing hos­pi­tals on the ba­sis of bet­ter out­comes and mea­sures of safety, qual­ity and pa­tient ex­pe­ri­ence in­stead of pay­ing only for the vol­ume of ser­vices pro­vided.”

“While change is al­ways dif­fi­cult, we have made a strong ef­fort to min­i­mize its im­pact on you, our val­ued staff, while at the same time ensuring we have the fi­nan­cial re­sources to en­able us to con­tinue to pro­vide ex­cel­lence and com­pas­sion­ate care — ev­ery per­son, ev­ery time,” the let­ter reads.

The de­tails of the buy­out are ex­pected to be dis­cussed at a town hall meet­ing on Mon­day at noon. But the doc­u­ments show that em­ploy­ees will be asked to turn in their ap­pli­ca­tions by

Aug. 11, and man­agers will de­cide who will re­ceive the buy­outs by Aug. 28.

The last day of em­ploy­ment for those who take the buy­out will be Nov. 10.

The doc­u­ments do not lay out how many peo­ple the hos­pi­tal is look­ing to lose. They do say that hos­pi­tal man­age­ment can re­ject an em­ployee’s re­quest “based on both the num­ber of em­ploy­ees who ac­cept the of­fer and the op­er­a­tional im­pact to Si­b­ley.”

Hos­pi­tal spokesman Gary Stephen­son on Satur­day said that Si­b­ley’s “over­all fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion re­mains strong” and that the buy­outs were an op­por­tu­nity for fi­nan­cial im­prove­ment iden­ti­fied by hos­pi­tal lead­er­ship and Si­b­ley’s Board of Trustees.

“The goal of this pro­gram is to align the need to re­duce la­bor costs with the de­sire of em­ploy­ees who may wish to de­part Si­b­ley,” Stephen­son said. The de­ci­sion to ap­ply for it, he said, “is the em­ployee’s — and the em­ployee’s alone.”

The pro­gram, ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ments, would of­fer em­ploy­ees one week of pay for ev­ery year of ser­vice, up to 12 years. It also calls for giv­ing em­ploy­ees a cash bonus of $15,000.

While not ex­plicit about the ex­tent of the ex­pected short­fall, the doc­u­ments are blunt about the hos­pi­tal’s needs.

A ques­tion-and-an­swer sheet for staff mem­bers asks whether the buy­out is “be­ing of­fered be­cause of fi­nan­cial con­cerns?” The an­swer: “Yes.”

An­other ques­tion asks, “If I leave through the Vol­un­tary Sep­a­ra­tion Pro­gram, how soon can I be re­hired?” The an­swer: “There is no guar­an­tee that any­body would be re­hired.”

Be­fore Si­b­ley was ac­quired by Bal­ti­more-based Johns Hop­kins, it had been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a drop in pa­tient vol­ume. The in­te­gra­tion was ini­ti­ated by Si­b­ley but also gave Hop­kins its first foothold in the Wash­ing­ton-area mar­ket.

At the time, the pres­i­dent of Johns Hop­kins Hos­pi­tal and Health Sys­tem, Ron Peter­son, de­scribed the move as strate­gic.

“Si­b­ley is strong fi­nan­cially, very highly re­garded in its com­mu­nity and lo­cated in the na­tion’s capital,” Peter­son said. “Hav­ing it as part of the Hop­kins fam­ily pro­vides us the crit­i­cal mass to bet­ter po­si­tion our­selves to pro­vide an in­te­grated, re­gional ap­proach to care, which we an­tic­i­pate the fu­ture will de­mand.”

AMANDA VOISARD FOR THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Si­b­ley Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal in the District was ac­quired by the Johns Hop­kins health sys­tem in 2010.

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