By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Following the news that Ministry Health Care will make significant job cuts across the state of Wisconsin, Ministry Health Care President and CEO Daniel Neufelder said today that the number of staff that lose their jobs will be far less than 500 people but acknowledged that some reductions would occur at Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield.
Neufelder did not have specifics as to how many positions would be cut in Marshfield. Ministry Health Care has 15 hospitals and 46 clinics across the state, and Ministry Saint Joseph’s is the system’s largest hospital. Neufelder would not say if, because of Ministry Saint Joseph’s size, there would be more cuts in Marshfield compared to other locations.
“It’s not quite that direct, and so I hesitate to make a general comment like that,” Neufelder said. He added that there are no plans to move services out of Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital.
While 500 fulltime positions will be eliminated across the state, Neufelder said that includes reducing hours for employees, terminating temporary or contract employees, not replacing employees that have recently left employment with the organization, and eliminating positions that Ministry was actively recruiting for but had not yet filled.
Neufelder did not have a figure for how many existing employees will be cut as a result of this decision but said, “It’s significantly below 500.” The cuts will take effect on Nov. 28, and Ministry staff was informed of the decision this week.
“We’ve seen a decline in our patient volumes,” Neufelder said. “And we believe the reductions (in patient volumes) are in part related to the continued impact of high deductible health plans that are driving down utilization of inpatient and outpatient services throughout the country.”
Neufelder noted that Ministry is also seeing an increase in patients that are covered by Medicare and Medicaid, which reimburse the health care provider “below cost.”
“When you put those factors together, that’s why we feel we need to adjust our staffing to really deal with the reality of the future,” Neufelder said. He later added, “This change will put Ministry on strong footing moving forward, so I’m very optimistic about our future.”
Most of the positions being cut, Neufelder said, are administrative or support staff. He said that Ministry is actively recruiting for over 200 open nursing positions and also for physicians throughout its system.
“The vast majority of these changes are happening away from patients’ bedsides,” Neufelder said.
“This reduction, we’ve tried to make it with foresight, so we believe this change will put us where we need to be not only for the near term but also the long term,” Neufelder said.
Neufelder echoed previous comments from Ministry that he does not believe Marshfield Clinic’s decision to build a new hospital in Marshfield is a viable solution to the community’s health care needs given trends of lower patient volumes.
Neufelder would not comment as to whether or not Ministry has responded to Marshfield Clinic’s previous offer to work with Ministry in building a new hospital together in Marshfield. He added that Marshfield Clinic’s activity in Marshfield and across the state were not factors in the decision to cut positions.
When asked if Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital is considering hiring its own physicians in Marshfield, as currently the vast majority of doctors that staff the hospital are Marshfield Clinic employees, Neufelder said, “It’s certainly a serious issue that we’ll have to consider over time.”