The need for more efficient use of space and a rough economy will cost 19 workers at RWJ-Hamilton hospital their jobs.

The cuts, announced on October 22, are part of a hospital-wide consolidation plan aimed at improving the hospital’s bottom line. The first phase of the plan calls for merging medical surgical space spread throughout the hospital, including the newer Lakefront Tower, which opened in 2007 to offer private patient rooms. By consolidating the medical surgical units, RWJ Hamilton will be in a better position to adjust to changes in patient volume and hospital demand, according to hospital spokesman Michael Ashworth.

The second part of the plan is the job cuts, though Ashworth would not say whether the cuts would come from support, administrative, or medical ranks.

In a written statement, CEO Anthony “Skip” Cimino said the hospital “is in sound financial condition but is being buffeted by the same economic forces affecting the entire hospital industry in New Jersey, where eight hospitals have closed in the past two years.”

Healthcare, one of the few job sectors not affected by the economy of the past year, is booming despite ominous signs that healthcare facilities like RWJ now must trim costs. Cimino said that despite the rosy job outlook in the healthcare industry, “hospitals are not immune from the recession. Like other businesses facing difficult economic conditions, we have to operate as efficiently as possible.”

Cimino blamed much of the problem on insurance and the state. Private and government insurance plans, including Medicare, are seeking to reimburse hospitals at discounted rates for the care their members receive, he said. He added that the state’s formula for charity care payments leaves suburban hospitals like RWJ Hamilton with a wide gap between the cost of care provided and the level of reimbursement.

“These forces put pressure on the revenue we are able to gather to fund our operations,” Cimino said.

Cimino said the hospital does not plan to cut patient services and that the hospital is seeking to build upon its affiliation with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick. The hospital also is pursuing initiatives in palliative care, which addresses patients and families making difficult decisions about end-of-life treatments. Often, this involves shorter hospital stays.

According to the hospital, the 19 facing job loss at RWJ will receive severance packages and help with resume-writing and job-search strategies. — Scott Morgan

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton, 1 Hamilton Health Place, Hamilton 08619; 609-586-7900; fax, 609-584-6525. Anthony J. Cimino, president and CEO. Home page: www.rwjhamilton.org.

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