Empty beds tied to cuts at Sinai Occupancy rate dips 10% in year

October 30, 1990|By Sue Miller | Sue Miller,Evening Sun Staff

Sinai Hospital in northwest Baltimore plans to cut at least 200 jobs because of a declining occupancy rate that dropped 10 percent in the last year, according to officials.

But, Sinai may have another reason for moving quickly to become a leaner and more efficient hospital after posting a $7.8 million deficit in operating revenues last June. That reason is survival.

Leonard Marcus, vice president for employee relations said last night that Sinai will reduce its work force by about 200 positions because of a declining occupancy rate, which dropped from 80 percent this time last year to 70 percent this year.

The actual number of workers who will lose their jobs is not known now, but Marcus predicted that "it's highly unlikely that the number of people who ultimately will get laid off will be anywhere near 200."

The reductions are expected to be across the board, ranging from physicians and management to unskilled workers. Marcus said the hospital would cut positions, in part, through attrition, by leaving vacant positions empty, by reducing temporary agency personnel and by cutting overtime.

Sinai has about 2,600 full-time equivalent positions and about 3,000 actual employees.

Richard H. Wade, a Maryland Hospital Association vice president, said, "We may see a smattering of layoffs at other hospitals, depending on how each institution deals with its own financial position and what cutbacks they view as necessary over the next year. But, we don't expect the massive layoffs we had in the early '80s," he said.

Wade said that he expects the actual number of layoffs at Sinai will be less than 50, "based on the way I know they are trying to deal with the downsizing of the hospital."

Asked if Sinai is suffering from a loss of revenue or finds itself in a financial crunch of any kind, Marcus replied, "We're reducing the size of our work force to avert a fiscal crunch. We think that's prudent."

Wade said that when a hospital experiences a sharp drop in occupancy, it has to examine its staffing patterns, and Sinai has found that it needs fewer people to care for its reduced number of patients.

Sinai reduced the average time a patient spends in the hospital from eight to seven days during the last year, but failed to attract enough patients to fill its beds.

Wade and John M. Colmers, executive director of the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission, said Sinai may be removing the fat from its system because of heightened money problems that became apparent in June when Sinai showed a $7.8 million deficit in operating revenue, up from $4.3 million in 1988.

Last June, as in other recent years, Sinai was able to show a profit by pumping in other funds not derived from patient care.

"Sinai's financial picture right now is somewhat more severe than the average Baltimore area hospital," Wade said. "Even though Sinai ended up with a $930,000 profit for the [fiscal] year ending June 1990, that is not an adequate operating margin for any hospital. That's probably less than a week's operating revenue."

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