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King’s Daughters lays off 148

ASHLAND, Ky. — When Melissa Burns got a morning call from work Thursday, she was hoping her boss wanted her to come in early.

Instead, the 39-year-old Ashland resident was told she no longer had a job at King’s Daughters Medical Center after two years as a CMT in the emergency department, sending the mother of two to the unemployment line.

“I just don’t understand why me, because I know people were hired after me and, I don’t know, I truly don’t understand how the selection process happened,” Burns said of her anger and disappointment. “I know they were training someone from another department to come to the ED (emergency department) to do my job. So why did they bring somebody else down there to the ED when I could have stayed?”

Burns said she was told to pick up a packet at the hospital after her boss informed her that she was laid off. The packet contained a general letter to the staff, a page about her transition hours and status and a page about a job fair to be held at KDMC. Burns said the job fair was through an outside company.

Burns was among the nearly 150 people who were laid off Thursday from King’s Daughters Health System. The medical facility called the move restructuring in response to a decline in the healthcare industry. In addition to the layoffs, the Russell, Ky., Family Care Center, as well as the Pikeville Family Care Center, will close Sept. 1 with staff and doctors relocating to other centers.

According to a press release, the positions in support, administrative and supervisory areas were cut due to “a decline in patient volumes and reimbursement levels,” but “staffing for direct patient care will not be changed.”

Burns said she laughed out loud after hearing statements from King’s Daughters that the cuts would not affect direct patient care.

“We are the ones pushing your chest compressions if you come in with a heart attack,” she said. “We are splinting your broken bones. We are cleaning out wounds so they can be sutured.”

Burns said she was surprised that she and another CMT were laid off since the department was already under staffed.

“We were running on what I would consider pretty low staff on CMTs as it was,” Burns said. “It’s to the point where I wouldn’t feel comfortable going to the ER for care at this point.”

In the release, Fred Jackson, president and CEO of KDMC, said the decision to layoff 148 employees was not an easy one.

“This was a very difficult decision to make,” said President/CEO Fred Jackson in the release. “Together, we have done everything possible to avoid this situation, including cutting operating expenses, combining areas where that made sense, and improving our operations through Process Innovation. Those efforts have helped us greatly. While difficult, the reduction will help preserve the positions of 3,831 people throughout our Health System, as well as our main goal of providing high value, exceptional patient care to our community.”

Burns said months-long rumors of potential layoffs had made the overall atmosphere in the hospital unpleasant.

“I know everybody else that got left at work today got to work today wondering when it’s their turn,” Burns said. “All we’ve heard for months and months and months is layoffs, layoffs, layoffs, restructuring. It’s almost a relief not to have that worry all the time. It makes for an awful environment.”

Burns, a nursing student at Ashland Community Technical College, said she would use the layoff as an opportunity to go to school full-time.

“I may just have to get my degree and move,” she said. “I know there are other quality facilities around and I am definitely looking at those as possibilities when I get my degree. … I’m a very positive person so this isn’t going to keep me down.”

According to the release, some of the people affected by the layoffs will be offered new positions through the job bidding process.

Union representatives are also crying foul at the situation.

Twelve of the workers to be laid off were full-time Service Employees International Union 1199 workers. Five additional union workers will go from full-time to part-time employment.

A release from union representatives blames the layoffs on a lack of leadership from Jackson, saying the senior management of the hospital has not shared in the sacrifices.

The release states “since 2010, senior management has seen annual wage increases with executive compensation topping $7 million. The most recent IRS Form 990 filed by KDMC parent company Ashland Hospital Corporation shows that CEO Fred Jackson took nearly $1.4 million in wages and other compensation in 2011.”

“The workers at King’s Daughters Medical Center are deeply concerned about the future of quality care at the hospital with layoff after layoff of very people this community counts on,” said Joyce Gibson, Director of West Virginia/Kentucky Healthcare for SEIU District 1199, in the release. “At some point you have to stop and think that the cuts at KDMC are coming from the wrong end of the organization. Enough is enough. Now is the time for our community to call for Fred Jackson to share in the sacrifice.”

The recent layoffs for bargaining unit members were the fourth time in as many years.

In 2009, 21 union employees were laid off, followed by 82 the next year. Another 69 were let go in 2012. During those three years, 71 workers were reduced to part-time.

An unknown number of non-union personnel was cut during these layoffs as well.