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BEND, OR -- St. Charles Health System will make deeper cuts in the next few months, to trim rising expenses. Chief Financial Officer Jan Welander says that despite changes made earlier this year, things continued moving in the wrong direction in July. "We operated at a loss of approximately a million dollars for the month. We have a projection for our performance for the year and we’re needing to improve that by approximately $6 million."

 
Welander tells KBND News administrators are still looking at all of the options, including incentivizing employees to come up with solutions, increasing efficiencies, leaving open positions unfilled and, "A voluntary buy-out program for employees/caregivers that are willing to give up their position and then we would not backfill their position." She says, "All of these things put together, in addition to the positions that we’ve already eliminated, are helping towards our goal. But, these might not be enough and layoffs might be necessary." Welander says if lay-offs occur, they would first look at non-patient contact positions, "Always, the safety of patients and the quality of care, it comes first; period. So, as we make decisions around how to tackle this problem, we do look to non-clinic positions first. We also look at where we do everything and try to understand if we could do them in a more efficient or consolidated manner." Those non-clinical positions could include Technical Services, Human Resources or other administrative departments. A final decision on the next phase of cuts is expected by mid-September.
 
In the spring, the health system announced adjustments to a major building project and left some open positions unfilled, in an effort to get back on good financial footing. "We are seeing improvements. The teams are doing excellent work around premium and overtime pay, and we have eliminated some open positions already. But, the rate of those improvements is not as fast as we need." Welander says the struggle isn't unique to Central Oregon and says it's "the new normal" for the healthcare industry, nationwide. "This is symptomatic of where healthcare is. It’s a combination of Legislative changes, ever-increasing supply costs and much more pressure from the insurance companies on our payments, or our reimbursements."
 
There are no plans to pass along rising costs to patients. "St. Charles does have some of the highest prices in the state for many procedures and we can’t continue to increase costs for our patients."
 
According to an August report by EDCO, St. Charles is the region's largest employer with nearly 4,500 workers. 

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