More than 100 University Medical Center employees, including registered and practical nurses, pharmacy technicians, and lab assistants, were laid off Friday as hospital administrators announced the closing of four care centers and an outpatient pharmacy.
The job action and facility closures, according to UMC CEO Lawrence Barnard, were the result of UMC Quick Cares losing millions of dollars and because of new opportunities for patients under the Affordable Care Act, which has expanded Medicaid coverage to more low-income Americans.
“This isn’t easy to do when people’s jobs are involved but we have to have a budget that makes sense,” Barnard said Friday. “With the Affordable Care Act, patients that we had developed programs for basically now have other options and there is no way we can justify keeping open Quick Cares that are losing millions of dollars. Patients who have gone to those will now have other Quick Care options nearby.”
In an April 17 letter sent to Martin Bassick, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 1107 that represents staffers at the public hospital, UMC chief human resources officer John Espinoza noted that both the Total Life Specialty Care Center at 2231 W. Charleston Blvd. and the UMC Outpatient Pharmacy at 1800 W. Charleston Blvd. were opened to help care for Clark County Social Services’ patients — individuals he said now have their heathcare needs largely met through expanded Medicaid and portions of the Affordable Care Act that went into effect this year.
Espinoza stressed that some services under the Total Life Specialty Care umbrella — coumadin (a blood thinner), cystic fibrosis (pediatrics and adults), cardiology, infectious disease, and neuro-stroke — will be transferred to UMC’s Lied Center at 1524 Pinto Lane. He also said the outpatient pharmacy will remain open, but at a “significantly reduced” level.
The recent expansion of Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act in Nevada is expected to result in such a dramatic short-term cash flow problem for UMC that Clark County commissioners recently approved a $25 million loan to deal with “delays in the amount of future cash receipts associated with Medicaid claims and insured patient claims.” The loan must be paid off within 12 months.
Job classifications affected in Friday’s 105-person layoff also included: admitting/discharge representative; certified nursing assistant; office assistant; radiology technologist and secretary.
Espinoza wrote Bassick that as a result of the facility closures, UMC has frozen vacant positions within the hospital “to allow for the reassignment of as many of the employees as possible that are affected by this decision.”
It was uncertain on Friday what the net number of layoffs would be after laid-off employees move to vacant positions.
UMC didn’t have any estimates available.
Bassick said he hasn’t yet received that information yet from the hospital. He said the areas targeted in the layoffs provide vital services for the region, including outlying parts of the county such as Laughlin, where the hospital is shuttering a clinic.
“I’m concerned as a taxpayer by shutting down a number of clinics,” Bassick said. “What happens if you get some type of sickness?”
There’s a cost, but UMC also is a service to the community, like firefighters and police departments that also don’t turn a profit, Bassick said.
Both the Boulder Quick Care at 5412 Boulder Highway and the Laughlin Quick Care in the small Nevada resort town of Laughlin on the Colorado River across from Bullhead City, Ariz., are losing $1 million a year, according to Barnard.
“It’s just not feasible to keep them open,” he said.
More private practitioners are serving Laughlin residents, the CEO said.
The Craig Quick Care at 2202 W. Craig Road in North Las Vegas that closed in November but was scheduled to be reopened this year will remain closed, the CEO said.
“We’re looking for additional revenue so we may find other locations for Quick Cares,” Barnard said.
Quick Cares will no longer do lab tests because of costs and lack of reimbursement, Barnard said.
He said patients will now be given a slip to go to labs such as Quest Diagnostics for tests.