Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

August 15, 2013

King’s Daughters lays off 148 workers

Two outreach centers to be closed Sept. 1

Mike James
The Independent

ASHLAND — King’s Daughters Medical Center laid off 148 workers Thursday, most of them at its Ashland hospital.

King’s Daughters also announced Thursday it will close its Russell and Pikeville centers Sept. 1, with staffers there moving to other centers.

Most of the workers laid off were in support, administrative and supervisory positions, hospital spokesman Tom Dearing said.

Dearing said staffing levels for direct patient care were unchanged.

Additionally, some workers had their hours cut from full time to part time, Dearing said.

The possibility of layoffs was in the air, but the reality was still a shock, said Kathleen Long, a home health clerk who lost her job. “I came in at 8 a.m., and at about 9:15 I was called to the office and told my position was eliminated,” she said.

Long was one of two home health clerks, and both were laid off, she said.

The layoffs are “a blow to the community,” said Long, a single mother of two teenagers. “When you have that many people without jobs, it trickles all the way down.”

In a press release, and in an email from president and CEO Fred Jackson to King’s Daughters staff, the hospital blamed the layoffs on fewer patients and declining reimbursements and said the cuts were part of a national slump in the health care business.

The hospital will offer some of the laid-off workers new positions in the company.

Jackson’s email blamed “a perfect storm of a shifting business model, changing federal and state reimbursements, increasing demand for charity care, and a weak economy” and said the hospital would look to outpatient services and its community outreach centers for future growth.

Among those laid off were 12 members of Service Workers International Union District 1199, and five other union members went from full-time hours to part time, according to SEIU Deputy Director Joyce Gibson.

Carol Selvage, a medical records clerk who wasn’t among those laid off, said employees with decades of experience lost their jobs. “There were 20- and 30-year employees who went out the door today,” she said.

The hospital took steps to avoid layoffs, including cutting expenses, combining areas and improving operations, which softened the effect of the layoffs, Jackson said in his email and in the release.

When the Pikeville and Russell centers are closed, staffers there will go to other centers.

Family physician Jane Strader and pediatrician Akashni Bhasin are moving from Russell to the Flatwoods center. Pediatrician Jonathan Maynard is moving to the Grayson center.

Family physicians Patrick Collins and Tara Newsome will relocate to the new Prestonsburg center, 15 minutes north of the Pikeville center. Physical medicine and rehabilitation physician Scott Akers and cardiologist Vaughn Payne also are relocating to the new Prestonsburg location.

The cuts are the most recent in a series at King’s Daughters, which laid off workers in 2009, 2010 and 2012.

 MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.