Rumors of layoffs rife
Hospitals always have active rumor mills, but lately Enloe Medical Center’s has been working overtime. Although hospital administrators insist no new decisions have been made, several developments in recent weeks have employees worried that major changes, particularly layoffs, are in the works.
The proximate cause of the concern is apparently an e-mail memo from John Boyle, vice president for operations, that went out to all employees last Friday, Jan. 5. It noted that two in-house study groups, one dubbed “Operations” and the other “Strategy/Finance,” had completed a two-month-long “validation process” that sought to analyze the business practices of the hospital and were preparing to present results to the hospital’s Board of Trustees. The groups were made up of trustees, physicians and senior managers.
Also contributing to the validation process was Navigant, an international consulting company headquartered in Chicago. The hospital hired the company, which advises hospitals on streamlining business operations, to provide “third-party advice” on how other hospitals make best use of resources, said Laura Hennum, the hospital’s public relations coordinator.
The trustees, Boyle wrote, would “review recommendations and approve next steps for the senior management team.”
Those “next steps” are what have people nervous. They’re aware that a hiring freeze has been in place since November. Its most noticeable effects have been among lower-level employees, such as certified nurses’ aides, where turnover is highest, said David Welch, the union rep for registered nurses.
Many nurses are indeed worried. The CN&R fielded several calls this week from RNs concerned that their already difficult jobs were going to become much more so because of a lack of nurses’ aides.
“CNAs are some of the hardest-working people at the hospital,” one nurse said. “They help with lifting patients, with helping them walk and get them to the bathroom, with bathing—all the activities of daily living.”
Welch says it would be foolish for the hospital to balance its budget on the backs of low-level employees. “Right now the image of the hospital is at its lowest ebb in history, so cutting them would be a really bad idea.”
Hennum said the trustees were meeting Wednesday, Jan. 10—after CN&R press time—and afterwards would fully inform employees of their decisions. They are committed to communicating with all Enloe employees, she said, and had only the interests of the entire hospital in mind.
In addition, Interim CEO Beth O’Brien and the entire senior management staff will be available for questions during the regular monthly employee forum on Tuesday, Jan. 16.