SARANAC LAKE - Donna Bailey said Friday was a difficult and emotional day for many of her co-workers at Adirondack Medical Center.
The official announcement that Adirondack Health, the hospital's parent organization, will lay off 17 employees didn't come until early afternoon, but talk of the impending bad news had spread quickly around the building in the morning.
"Somehow word got around that people knew that things were going to happen today, so it was a difficult day," said Bailey, an ultrasound technician who lives in Saranac Lake. She's the chief steward for United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents environmental services, nutritional services, radiology and laboratory staff, among other employees, at the hospital. "The atmosphere was kind of sad. A lot of people spent the morning wondering, 'Is my job safe?'"
"The first time I heard about it was our (New York State Nurses Association) rep came into the hospital from Albany in the morning and let us know they were doing layoffs," said Pat Valentine, a nurse who is chairman of the NYSNA bargaining unit at Adirondack Medical Center. "It was pretty much a shock to everybody."
The 17 layoffs that were announced included five nurses and at least four members of UFCW. Adirondack Health officials said a third of the cuts came from management-level employees.
Bailey said she talked with two people whose jobs were cut.
"They're doing OK," she said. "The hospital's human resources people offered them options. It wasn't just, 'OK, you're out of here.' They were gracious in that respect, if there's a way to be gracious in dealing with this kind of thing."
Adirondack Health President and CEO Chandler Ralph told the Enterprise that the layoffs and other restructuring measures will help close a $3 million budget shortfall in the nonprofit health organization's 2013 budget. Although the announcement of layoffs was a shock to many of his co-workers, Valentine said they knew the hospital was facing a significant deficit.
"We were told the hospital was in debt by a very large sum of money this quarter and they needed to do something to cut back," Valentine said. "They asked us to not get any overtime and stuff like that. We knew it was probably going to happen eventually. We weren't expecting it to be quite this soon."
Ralph blamed Adirondack Health's decision to lay off staff and restructure on declining state and federal reimbursements, along with a shift in health care that's led to a decrease in in-patient volume at the hospital.
Bailey said she understands why the cuts had to be made.
"It doesn't make it any easier, but I do understand," she said.
"What it comes down to is hospital stays are getting so much shorter now," Valentine said. "It used to be people were in the hospital five, six and seven days at a time. Now it's like one, maybe two days. They just aren't bringing in the revenue."
Visitors to the Enterprise Facebook page shared their disappointment about the layoffs after the newspaper broke the news around 2 p.m. Friday. Many people were even more upset at the timing of the announcement, coming just weeks before Christmas.
"This is very unfortunate for all involved," wrote Carol Chick Ohmann.
"This is really unsettling," wrote Kayla Cote, who said she works for Adirondack Health. "You know, be respectful and have a heart and if you MUST lay people off, do it after the holidays!"
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.