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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hospital’s parent cuts 182 jobs

MANCHESTER – In what is likely to be the first of several announcements of health care layoffs, one of the hospitals suing the state over Medicaid funding has announced that it laid off nearly 200 employees.

Elliot Health Systems, which includes Elliot Hospital in Manchester, released a statement Tuesday that it has cut a program, cut expenses and benefits, and laid off 182 employees.

The cuts, it said, were due to the $17 million deficit the hospital is facing as the result of a Legislative plan to cut Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals by $250 million over the next two years.

“The action we have been forced to take today is as a direct result of the state’s cuts and we are outraged and sad. We hold the state and every legislator accountable for what is taking place today. Good people are forever harmed,” Doug Dean, the hospital’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

Dean said the cuts came in nearly every department of the company and at all levels of seniority. The only groups not cut were doctors and nurses, he said.

The 182 employees represent about 4 percent of Elliot’s workforce.

The hospital’s Elliot On-Call, a 24-hour scheduling and advice hotline, was canceled, the hospital’s contributions to employee retirement saving accounts have been frozen and its policies on vacation time have been altered, Dean said.

All of the employees received out-placement counseling and will continue to receive pay and benefits for periods determined by the length of their employment, Dean said.

On Monday, Elliot Health System, Southern New Hampshire Medical Center and St. Joseph Hospital and seven other hospitals filed suit against Nicholas Toumpas, commissioner of the state Department of Health and Human Services, over a plan that uses more than $200 million in Medicaid funds to balance the two-year state budget.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Concord, alleges that the plan violates federal law and threatens “immediate and irreparable injury to the public.” It asks that the plan be immediately halted.

The suit is over whether lawmakers can keep the $115 million annually in so-called bed tax payments that hospitals make so the federal government will make a matching payment.

Since 1991, hospitals have been reimbursed once the state got the federal payment. This year, the Legislature decided to not only keep the federal money and also the initial $115 million it collected from hospitals.

“The consequences of the state’s failure to pay us for taking care of the poor are truly devastating, particularly as the state changes its course from the past 20 years and walks away from needed matching federal dollars,” Dean said in the statement.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415, jcote@nashuatelegraph.com; also check out Joseph Cote (@Telegraph_JCote) on Twitter.