Nurses union: Boston Medical Center to cut more than 50 jobs

Julie M. Donnelly, Boston Business Journal, May 24, 2012

The Massachusetts Nurses Association says Boston Medical Center (BMC) plans to eliminate a total of 51 full-time equivalent nursing jobs, starting next week. The union says 8 of the positions will be cut at the East Newton campus, in conjunction with the closure of 18 beds. The organization says another 31 positions will be lost with the closure of BMC's rehabilitation unit, along with another 12 positions in Boston.

The hospital disputes these numbers, and says the total number of jobs affected is 39.7. BMC also says 12 beds, not 18, will be closed, in order to create more private rooms. The hospital sent the following statement by email: "Providing high-quality, safe patient care is Boston Medical Center’s No. 1 priority. In an ever-changing health care environment, BMC is committed to being a responsive health-care organization that strives to be the lowest-cost, highest-quality care provider in the city of Boston. Back in February, BMC announced its plans to no longer provide certain rehabilitation services as of July 1. In addition to that, BMC will be converting a small number of its double rooms into single rooms, which will allow the hospital to enhance our high standards of care and patient safety. We hope and expect that a number of employees currently in affected positions will assume new roles at BMC. These adjustments in care delivery are necessary to ensure that BMC has the flexibility to operate as efficiently and effectively as possible and to preserve the hospital’s mission."

The union is asking the hospital to implement an early retirement incentive program, which they say could help prevent layoffs of some younger nurses, and are also asking for a training program that would re-train some affected nurses to work in the operating room.

The hospital posted slightly improved financial performance for the first half of its fiscal year, which ended March 31, according to regulatory documents. Patient service revenue for the first half of this fiscal year was $428.8 million, up from $416.4 million for the same time period last year. The hospital’s operating loss shrank to $10.5 million for the first two quarters, from $28.3 million in the year-ago period.

Boston Medical Center, which serves a disproportionately high number of low-income patients, is one of seven safety-net hospitals in Massachusetts that will share in a federal grant worth up $628 million over three years to help improve care coordination, US officials announced earlier this week.