El Camino Hospital to lay off 140
Officials say slumping economy forced staff cuts
El Camino Hospital announced on Aug. 12 that it will be laying off about 140 full- and part-time employees.
The hospital has been hit hard by the recession and has seen a "sustained decrease in patient activity," El Camino officials said in a press release.
"A reduction in force is necessary so that our operational costs aligned with patient revenues," the statement said.
"This process has been very difficult for all those involved," said Chris Ernst, a spokeswoman for El Camino Hospital. "We've been trying really hard to avoid today."
Ernst did not have an estimate for how much money the cuts will save the hospital, but emphasized that while it was a very hard decision, it was necessary. "It is ultimately the right business decision for the long-term health and strength of this hospital."
The hospital has notified most of the 195 employees whose jobs may be cut, Ernst said. Of those 195, Ernst estimated that somewhere between 138 and 142 employees, from service-level employees up through the hospital's administration, would be let go.
The hospital's current employee base is about 3,000.
About 21 nurses are likely to lose their jobs, Ernst said. She did not have estimates for the layoffs among other categories of employees.
The hospital was rebuilt as part of a $470 million, seven-year project. The new facility was opened in November 2009, and it was referenced in Popular Science magazine the next month as "the most technologically advanced hospital in the world."
Comments attached to this story on the Voice website expressed many concerns about the layoffs and the hospital's management. Some criticized the hospital for spending too much money on televisions and robots capable of shuttling medical supplies around the hospital.
Others criticized the hospital administration for taking exorbitant salaries. Still others claimed the hospital's various unions were unwilling to make compromises with management on compensation packages.
Lisa Hubbard, a spokeswoman for the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers, rejected those accusations, and said that her organization is always willing to work with hospital administration in order to "retain the staff that's needed to protect the quality of care that those in the surrounding community have come to expect from the hospital."
Hubbard said that El Camino Hospital informed 129 members of her union — which represents housekeeping staff, nurses assistants and other service workers at the hospital — that they could lose their jobs. However, she is optimistic that arbitrators will be able to save many, if not all, of those jobs in talks with the hospital planned for next week.
"We're living in really tough economic times," Hubbard said. "We understand the pressures on hospitals."
However, she added, "we will exhaust and explore every single avenue" in order to keep union members employed at the hospital.
Representatives from the nurses' union did not respond to calls or e-mails from the Voice in time to meet the press deadline.
A registered nurse, who initially responded to a request from the Voice for an interview, did not return phone calls or e-mails in time to meet the press deadline.
Ernst said that the hospital had been working hard through its Accelerating Continuous Excellence — or ACE — initiative to find ways to save money without cutting employees.
"Even with the ACE improvements, we continue to see a very challenging economy," she said. "To be a responsible community hospital, you have to keep your resources in line with your current volume and revenue."