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Carthage Area Hospital to reduce staff

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CARTHAGE — Carthage Area Hospital announced Wednesday that it will cut an unspecified number of jobs as part of its next phase toward stabilizing its finances.

Hospital officials did not give specifics about how many jobs would be eliminated or in which areas. The hospital issued a general news release late Wednesday afternoon saying that “in some instances, existing open positions will not be filled and in other cases a reassignment of duties and/or reduction in staff will occur.” It was unclear whether the cuts will involve layoffs.

The hospital, 1001 West Street Road, employs about 480 people. Changes in the workforce are expected to occur by year’s end.

“The recovery plan implementation is critically important to promote our long-term viability, as well as maintain Carthage Area Hospital’s ability to provide quality health care services to the community,” Chief Executive Officer Adil Ameer said in a prepared statement. “The other factor that is extremely important for us is to accommodate the changes taking place in the health care industry, particularly with regards to reduction in reimbursement as well as changes in health care services utilization.”

A call seeking comment from Chief Operating Officer Richard A. Duvall was not immediately returned.

New York State Nurses Association spokesman Dan Lutz said the hospital notified the union about the staff cuts, but did not provide details.

“We’re concerned about what this could mean for certain services,” he said.

Mr. Lutz said the association, which is the state’s largest union for nurses, hopes to find out more specific information within a few days.

Attempts to reach representatives of Service Employees International Union Local 1199, a union of health care workers, for comment were unsuccessful Wednesday night.

In a follow-up email, hospital spokeswoman Natalie M. Burnham provided vague information about the workforce reduction.

“We are looking at not filling some positions, therefore removing them from payroll,” she said. “Ongoing evaluation and assessment will continue and we will make adjustments as necessary in both clinical and non clinical areas.”

The plan would affect hospital and clinical staff, and the nonprofit will explore sharing resources between the hospital and its Meadowbrook Terrace assisted-living facility on Cole Road in the town of Champion, Mrs. Burnham said.

When asked whether the plan was a result of changes occurring with the federal Affordable Care Act, Mrs. Burnham said that it is too soon to predict the impact, but that a reduction in reimbursement and changes in use are anticipated.

No updated hospital financial information was available Wednesday. Mr. Ameer said in May that the hospital had reduced debt and expenses, improved cash flow and streamlined operations. All of that would not have been possible without well over $10 million in support from area economic development and state agencies.

The hospital had been in a dire financial situation in 2011, but a recovery plan has been a work in progress since then. Throughout the past two years, the hospital has resolved many issues with its billing system, improved cash flow and reduced the number of community clinics, among other options.

Increasing outpatient services and offering new services has been a goal throughout the recovery plan. The hospital recently opened a sleep lab and expanded diagnostic radiology services.

Meanwhile, Carthage Area Hospital isn’t the only Jefferson County hospital that is reducing its workforce. In August, Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown, announced it would layoff 23 staff members and reassign 42 others, as a proactive approach as health-care reform shifts from inpatient hospital stays to a community-based setting.

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