WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center announced Thursday that they are laying off approximately 350 employees.
The job cuts are to help close the increasing gap between growing expenses and declining reimbursement from federal and state health insurance and other revenue sources, according to a press release.
Here in North Caroline we got the first part of that with the cuts but we did not get the expanded Medicaid program.
“At the end of the day the Affordable Care Act is just reforming payments, it’s not really reforming health care,” said John McConnell, CEO of Wake Forest Baptist. “That job is left up to institutions like ours to figure out how we drive up quality and drive down cost.”
The Medical Center employs approximately 14,686 faculty and staff at all of their locations.
The release states that the announcement was not unexpected.
“It’s what happens in virtually every other American business,” said McConnell. “You’re simultaneously looking at what areas you need to grow to serve the community and second how you do that in a way that’s affordable so that you can keep you cost structure in line with the reimbursement that’s occurring.”
Since Wake Forest Baptist’s initial announcement in November 2012, the state has reduced Medicaid payments to providers statewide and early last year decided not to expand Medicaid. Employees were notified last month.
Those whose positions are eliminated are being given 45 days of paid notice with health benefits, followed by a severance package determined by length of service and position.
“Letting people go is never an easy or hasty decision,” said McConnell. “It is like losing family.”
This announcement comes as the Medical Center is currently in the process of expansion. The Innovation Quarter is being developed downtown to help the company fulfill its mission as a medical research facility.
But some people question the job cuts coinciding with expansion.
“I think it was very unnecessary to them to build when people are losing jobs,” said Michelle Scott, a Winston-Salem resident.
She also cited the building of other locations and the recent revamping of the Comprehensive Cancer Center.
McConnell says those expansions are helping the company keep up with demand and allowing Winston-Salem residents to access technologically advanced healthcare without leaving the region.
“To be able to do all those things we have to operate the business in a very prudent way and we’re really not doing anything any differently than any other business would be doing in the same circumstances,” said McConnell.
McConnell said that the organization does not anticipate further staff reductions next year. He said a new labor management system and flexible schedule should help them keep costs down.