The Beat confirmed through several sources today that after a directors' meeting at the county-owned Gila Regional Medical Center this morning, 70 people were informed they would have their hours cut back 50 percent, as of May, 19, 2013. In addition, the chief executive officer, the chief financial officer, the chief information officer and the chief nursing officer/chief operations officer would voluntarily take off one day a month unpaid. The total workforce at GRMC is about 700 employees, so this action impacts about 10 percent of the paid staff.

At a recent board meeting, after extensive deliberations in closed session, the public was informed that no lay offs were planned, but cost cutting of employees through attrition and cutting of hours would be implemented.

Grant County Commission Chairman Brett Kasten said it was disappointing that the administration and board were not more innovative in their actions. It is especially aggravating, he said, that management admitted they were 50 fulltime employees heavy and chose not to deal with it through attrition.

"The hospital is in better shape than any other county facility in the state, due to having no debt, after the $10 million bond recently secured is sent back," Kasten said.

It is unfortunate the firestorm of sequestration and sole community provider funding hits all came together.

"However, that does not alleviate the pain the employees are feeling," he said. "Our heart goes out to them."

The plan to cut costs included the recently formed Operational Restructuring Project Teams continuing to find ways to cut costs and reduce operational expenses.

GRMC has had to deal with reimbursement cuts and volume declines, necessitating drastic action. Other measures include terminating the planned capital expansion project and returning the afore-mentioned $10 million bond funding; postponing the Meditech health information system software upgrade; approval of implementation of identified non-salary savings of $1.5 million; the closure of Home Health Services in Luna County, and Home Health's Disabled & Elderly waiver and Helping Hands programs in Grant County.

According to a news release from the hospital, these efforts will save about $4.6 million.

County Manager Jon Paul Saari said he was on a recent call the GRMC Board of Trustees officers had with New Mexico Human Services Department.

"HSD told us they were working diligently with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid," Saari said. "They thought a decision would be reached around mid-May to return 75 percent of the usual payment to the state. The way I understood it was that the payment would continue through June 2014, when hospitals would likely receive smaller amounts."

He said HSD said it was also working to diversify funding, so the state and hospitals were not totally reliant on CMS, to prevent it becoming an issue in the future.

"The county commissioners have their hands tied," Saari said. "The only thing they can do is appoint the board members and issue debt. The authority is with the Board of Trustees."

Live from Silver City

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The Grant County Beat endeavors to post to the Elections page, under News, at the least, notices of candidates for Grant County races. Some candidates for statewide races have also sent their notices. 

The Beat continues to bring you new columnists.Recent additions  include the Christian Corner, for those who are already Christians or are exploring the beliefs.

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