State hospital group laying off 35 staff; more could lose jobs later

State hospital group laying off 35 staff; more could lose jobs later
Published: Aug. 28, 2014 at 9:22 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 28, 2014 at 10:12 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The financially-strapped Hawaii Health Systems Corporation, which runs 13 state hospital facilities across Hawaii, announced Thursday it will lay off less than one percent of its workforce, but warned more layoffs may be looming.

HHSC runs Hilo Medical Center, Kona Community Hospital, Maui Memorial Medical Center and Leahi Hospital, among others.

The facilities plan to notify about 35 of their roughly 3,400 employees by Sept. 2 that their positions are being eliminated as of mid-December to help attack a $48 million shortfall.

'We value our employees tremendously and we really tried to avoid this, said Alice Hall, acting president and chief executive officer of HHSC. "Unfortunately, the current financial situation in some regions is not sustainable without significant changes, some of which have resulted in cost saving measures that include a reduction in force."

Randy Perreira, executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the state's largest union, said layoffs are not the way to go.

"Obviously there could be direct impact on services to the community, rather than looking at cutting some of their consultant contracts or cutting some of the bureaucrats that are within the HHSC framework," Perreira said.

"Our management teams are looking at every expense area," said Lance Segawa, HHSC's executive director of operations and planning.

Segawa told Hawaii News Now that a vacant chief medical officer position – formerly a high-paid post filled by a physician – was not filled and a corporate director of quality position was also eliminated.

Segawa said some consulting contracts have also been terminated, but he could not immediately detail how many and how much money those contracts were worth.

The hospitals are dealing with decreased state subsidies and health insurance reimbursements while costs continue to rise.

More job cuts and other reductions might be necessary, said Lance Segawa said.

The "reduction in force" will start a "bumping" process where more senior employees whose jobs have been eliminated will be able to "bump" junior co-workers or transfer into budgeted vacant positions for which they are qualified. The bumping process could take up to nine months, HHSC said.

Perreira, the HGEA union leader, said the bumping process is slow and disruptive and it won't save very much money with only about three dozen positions being eliminated.

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