It’s no secret that Hennepin County Medical Center has been contemplating layoffs—they announced as much at the beginning of December, and received Hennepin County Board of Commissioners approval for such layoffs this past week. Not so clear, however, is why they think layoffs are necessary. As the rate of health insurance coverage reaches historical highs, is our local county hospital really facing difficult financial times?
HCMC CEO Jon Pryor seems to be hinting at as much. In a December 9 communication to HCMC employees, he stated, “If you’ve been paying attention to the media, you know that HCMC is not the only healthcare organization facing a financial challenge right now.”
But MNA nurses have been paying attention to the media, and this is what they’ve found: hospital profits in this state are running at an all-time high. The costs of charity care and bad debt from patients have plunged as health insurance coverage rates have increased, saving hospitals across the state 16.7 percent in uncompensated care costs since 2013. Hospitals’ financial positions have never been stronger — in 2014, our state’s largest healthcare systems saw an increase of 38 percent in operating income.
HCMC, as the state’s largest provider of charitable care, has not been exempt from this windfall. In 2014, its costs for charitable care declined by a whopping 40 percent, for a savings of $10.7 million. In fact, according to their annual financial disclosures, HCMC has made a total net profit of $19.5 million over the last four years for which disclosures are available.
So again, why the need to cut hard working front-line healthcare staff? Could it have anything to do with HCMC’s glitzy, new $224.6 million specialty center? Is it because of the money HCMC will need to change its name, as it is in the process of doing? Is HCMC actually in difficult financial shape after seeing its charitable care costs decline by 40 percent, and assuredly even more, over the past several years? The answers are not clear.
That’s why MNA nurses are calling on Dr. Pryor to make a commitment and pledge to transparency. HCMC nurses want to know:
- Are these layoffs truly necessary?
- Do the accountants in HCMC’s “Analytics Center of Excellence” understand patient care, and are they familiar with how cutting bedside staff leads to poor quality of care, medical errors, decreased patient satisfaction, and adverse patient events (i.e. falls, pressure ulcers, even death)?
- Why did HCMC announce this in the press before talking to its employees?
- When will HCMC tell its employees the full plan?
- Why hasn’t HCMC released its 2015 financial reports?