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Staff file photo
St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011

St. Joseph Hospital to close subsidiary companies, cut jobs

NASHUA – The bleeding is continuing at Gate City hospitals.

Less than a week after Southern New Hampshire Medical Center announced 100 layoffs, administrators at St. Joseph Hospital revealed today plans to close two subsidiary companies, Rockingham Regional Ambulance, Inc. and Granite State Mediquip, Inc., which could affect more than 10 percent of the hospital’s workforce.

The closings, to take effect this fall, come as the result of state budget cuts, which have left the hospital facing $19 million in losses over the next two years, according to David Ross, St. Joseph’s chief executive officer.

St. Joseph, which employs about 1,500 full-time workers, joined Southern New Hampshire Medical Center and eight other hospitals last week in filing a lawsuit against state officials over their plan to use Medicare reimbursements to balance the state budget.

“Unfortunately, because of the changes in the budget, we have had to make some very tough decisions that will have impacts across (the hospital) community,” Ross said this morning.

“All these decisions are very unfortunate. ... We have a very strong postiive culture here,” he said. “This is creating some significant consternation and concern.”

Based in Nashua, Granite State Mediquip provides medical equipment and therapy services to residents in southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts.

And Rockingham Ambulance, the state’s largest emergency responder, provides ambulance services to Nashua and Candia, among other communities.

Together, the two companies employ 174 workers, most of whom will not be re-assigned within the hospital, according to Melissa Sears, St. Joseph’s vice president of strategy and business development.

“Any time there’s an opportunity to redeploy in the organization, we try to look at those opportunities,” Sears said. “But, we don’t have any other need for ambulance (or equipment) personnel at this time. ... We’re sorry to lose them.”

The closings, scheduled to go into effect Sept. 30, are expected to be the first of several rounds of cuts at St. Joseph.

Ross, the CEO, declined to comment on what areas could be cut next, but last week, Dr. William Stephan, the hospital’s vice president of medical affairs, said that other programs, such as day care and home care, could be on the table unless the budget situation changes.

“It’s going to freeze our growth,” Stephen said, “and we’ll lose those services that don’t make money but are valuable.”

One area the administrators are committed to preserving is in-patient services, Ross said. Despite the cuts, the hospital’s nurse-patient ratios will remain the same.

“That’s one area we chose,” he said. “Our commitment to outstanding quality will continue to be a significant part of who we are.”

Despite the closings, Nashua’s emergency response services will also remain strong, city officials said this afternoon.

Long before the hospital’s announcement, city officials decided this winter to open the city’s ambulance services to the market, according to Mayor Donnalee Lozeau. Bids are due back in early September, and the Board of Aldermen should have a new contract in place when Rockingham closes at the end of the month, Lozeau said.

“We’ve been very happy with them,” she said. “We’ve had no complaints, but it’s good business practice to go out and take a look (at the market).

“Their service was top notch. The city’s going to miss them.”