PMHD eliminates several department heads in cost-cutting maneuver

Mounting financial losses at Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District resulted in the elimination of several administrators and department heads on Thursday. COURTESY PHOTO

BRAWLEY — Pioneer’s Memorial Healthcare District was the scene of a bloodletting Thursday, when 12 positions were eliminated and at least 10 employees were shown the door in an effort to shave costs in an organization that has been experiencing significant losses.

PMHD CEO Larry Lewis confirmed positions had been eliminated in public relations and marketing, human resources, clinical administration, housekeeping, nursing administration and payroll. He said two employees were given the opportunity to transfer to other departments.

Lewis said the staffing cuts, which primarily affected management positions within the district, were deemed necessary to help the organization tighten its belt amid mounting losses.

He said PMHD recorded losses of $2 million in the 2018-19 and has already fallen another $2.5 million in the hole through the first eight months of 2019-20.

Lewis said the economics of the healthcare industry are making it increasingly difficult operate, as health plans continue to pressure hospitals to hold down admissions.

“While Pioneers, as well as other hospitals nationwide, have been reacting to decreases in funding levels by decreasing expenses for the last few years, it is even more difficult in areas of the country like ours, where the highest concentrations Medi-Cal patients are funded far below the rest of the country (California was ranked 47th lowest funded state in the country per Medicaid Enroll 2014),” Lewis explained in an email. “Forty percent of our county’s population receives its healthcare from the Medi-Cal plan.”

With those changes, Pioneers has seen decreases in admissions and emergency room visits, as has the entire county over the past few years, Lewis said.

While many efforts have been implemented to react to those changes, volumes decreases continue, he added. This resulted in a loss for the fiscal year ended June 2019 and is continuing through the eight months ended February 2020.

“While it is the last effort that anyone wants to implement, Pioneers did implement a reorganization plan to reduce the amount of administrative expense in the organization,” Lewis said.

He said the focus of the reorganization was on leadership and administrative staff totaling a net reduction of 10 employees (of more than 870 employees overall).

Those affected do not directly impact any direct patient care, he added.

“The impact of this change places Pioneers in a sound financial position as we continue to enhance and improve services for the communities of Imperial County,” Lewis said.

Lewis conceded the terminations, which fell on the same day the hospital announced its first positive test for novel coronavirus, made for a very hard day.

“Making organizational changes is probably the most difficult time of life for affected individuals and for leadership to face,” he said. “Nothing is more difficult than affecting the individual lives that have committed so much to a service for others, especially in healthcare.”

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