EMMC to Adjust Staffing to Current Climate

01/27/2010

The staff at Eastern Maine Medical Center is committed to caring for our patients, their families, the community, and one another. During these challenging financial times, we, like many organizations, need to make adjustments in accordance with evolving realities. We are working to adjust our staffing to be consistent with the current lower census of patients at EMMC.

At some level this is actually good news. We know that the work we’ve done to lower our inpatient length of stay has resulted in a lower daily census. We are working hard to reduce the cost of healthcare and the need for hospitalization as much as possible. Some of our initiatives have included better management of chronic disease and improved access to our primary care medical homes. Our Palliative Care program provides support for patients and families with life limiting diagnoses that reduces their need for hospitalization. In addition, better care management for patients who are in the hospital results in shorter lengths of stay. All of these programs not only reduce the cost of care, but also improve the quality of life of these patients. These programs are getting the right results, and we need to adjust to our own success.

We also understand that some people are choosing to put off elective medical procedures in these tough financial times. Although we continue to work on increasing patient access to EMMC through selected program growth, like the Imaging Center of Maine, CancerCare of Maine, and The Clinics at Walmart, we are in a position of needing to adjust staffing to fit current patient activity.

Previous Cost Reduction Strategies
For more than a year, we’ve been down staffing in some areas almost daily, reassigning staff, eliminating open positions, and not replacing employees who leave EMMC. In addition, for about 18 months, we have been engaged in other, increasingly intensive cost reduction strategies. The strategies include a 35% reduction in administration level positions, and the elimination of 11 management level positions. These have been accomplished, largely, through attrition. In July 2009, leader wages were frozen as well. Still, we have not been able to absorb the MaineCare payment cut of $4.6 million passed last year--a situation we expect to worsen to an annual reduction of $9.2 million, if the current supplemental State of Maine budget proposal is passed. 

Early Retirement Offer Underway
The reality is that we can no longer use temporary solutions while we monitor the market for a recovery. The staffing adjustments we have made to date are steps on a continuum, and this week we will take the next step. EMMC is approaching employees who may be nearing retirement with incentives to take an early retirement. We realize this approach may mean saying goodbye to some longtime colleagues earlier than we expected, but it is voluntary and, we believe it is potentially a benefit to our most senior employees. The hope is to make the needed staffing adjustments in this manner. Our goal is about a three percent reduction, or about 100 positions. In the meantime, we will also be working on rebuilding a nursing pool and per diem staff, to maximize our ability to flex up and down with our variable daily census.

We believe EMMC’s future success requires both cost reduction and growth. To secure that future, we will continue to pursue market share growth in services where there is need, through outreach to referral sources, development of new markets, and advertising. The community is counting on our ability to make the right changes to sustain the important programs and services that set EMMC apart as the leading tertiary care center in central, eastern, and northern Maine. The steps we are taking are helping us meet this challenge.