Hospital lays off 65 workers

Published 12:02 am Saturday, May 17, 2008

NATCHEZ — On Monday morning Evelyn Kirby isn’t going to work — she’s going job hunting.

Kirby, 50, a veteran registered nurse, was one of 65 employees of Natchez Regional Medical Center laid off Friday.

The hospital’s CEO Scott Phillips said the lay offs were necessary for the future of the hospital — and more are likely.

Email newsletter signup

Phillips said the layoffs will not impact the level of patient care the hospital can provide.

Phillips said by the time all the layoffs are finished the hospital will have terminated approximately 95 employees.

The choice to layoff the workers was not a decision that was made quickly or easily, Phillips said.

Kirby said when she got the news on Friday she was not surprised.

“I thought it might happen,” she said.

Phillips said an extensive study was conducted to determine what departments would be losing employees.

Next, seniority was used to determine who would be laid off. Essentially, the newest employees were let go first.

And that’s what hurts about Kirby’s situation.

She had been working at NRMC for 27 years.

Kirby said she recently had to retire to take a lump sum of retirement benefits to pay a deceased family members mortgage, and only returned to work in mid-February.

Her return to work just months ago made her one of the newest in her department and one of the most qualified for the layoffs.

While Kirby said she understands the hospital’s economic problems and knows why her job was eliminated, she still needs to work.

“I’m the breadwinner of the household,” she said.

Kirby’s husband requires dialysis and cannot work.

While Phillips was not personally handling the layoffs, that was left to department managers, he said he was sympathetic to those affected.

“This is hard,” he said.

Phillips stressed that layoffs were seniority based, not merit based.

“It’s not about them, it’s happening to them,” he said. “And that’s difficult.”

According to those at the hospital on Friday, the news was difficult for most.

“It was very, very sad,” Kirby said. “It was depressing.”

Kirby said groups of employees crying and consoling each other in the halls were not uncommon throughout the day.

But Kirby, like Phillips said she recognized the need for layoffs.

Phillips said once all the layoffs have taken place the hospital will be saving $3 million per year.

But when the remaining layoffs will happen is unknown.

Phillips described a period of “redesigning,” to take place before the other layoffs could happen.

That redesigning, at its core, involves a study of the consolidation of departments and their staff.

For instance, Phillips said nurses will take over some duties once preformed by the respiratory therapy staff.

Rumors and speculation about layoffs began to circulate though the community months ago when it was learned the hospital was in the midst of great financial troubles.

Those rumors turned to reality Friday.

However, Phillips said he was confident the layoffs were a correct and necessary step in the effort to financially correct and ultimately save the hospital.

On June 1, Phillips said the 5-percent pay cut, put into place on April 1, will be restored for remaining workers.

But that won’t help Kirby who was contemplating her job on Friday evening.

“I think I’ll start at Community (hospital),” she said.

“But I’m staying in Natchez.”