Hospital to offer early retirement option Program seeks to avoid laying off employees

eligibility to be 'limited'

April 05, 1996|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,SUN STAFF

North Arundel Hospital plans to offer early retirement to a "limited" number of employees later this month, but no layoffs are planned, administrators confirmed yesterday.

The early retirement offer "is a way to try to make us both more efficient and effective," said James R. Walker, president and chief executive.

Mr. Walker said the offer was "for a very limited number of associates," but he would not discuss how many or which departments would be affected.

He also would not discuss the criteria those employees would have to meet to be eligible for the offer, saying, "I'm not at liberty to reveal them because we haven't revealed them to the staff."

The hospital, which employs 1,700 people, expects to make its offers by the middle of this month.

Hospital officials said the move is an attempt to avoid layoffs.

"We have no plans for layoffs. We're trying to do everything possible to avoid layoffs. The hospital has never had a layoff in its history and we're very proud of that," said Mr. Walker.

The hospital has been talking with employees for six months about redesigning the way North Arundel delivers patient care, said Susan B. Ward, vice president of operations.

Said Mr. Walker, "We have to make adjustments to make sure the hospital remains healthy. The worst thing any organization [can do] is not be prescient."

In February, North Arundel closed a 27-bed surgical unit on floor 4C because although admissions are at normal levels, patients aren't staying as long as they used to, administrators said.

The average stay for patients used to be six days. Now it is less than five days.

North Arundel's daily occupancy rate averages 60 percent, two percentage points above the state average, said Mr. Walker.

About 30 nurses and assistants who worked on floor 4C were reassigned to other floors or departments.

The hospital is healthy and is doing $100 million in gross patient revenue this fiscal year, about the the same as last year, said Mr. Walker.

But like other hospitals across the country faced with escalating health care costs and pressure from managed care systems for faster patient discharges, North Arundel Hospital is in a period of transition.

"We think the hospital is well-positioned. We have to get through this transition period with a shortened length of stay, but more patients are coming here. We're very optimistic about the future of the hospital," said Mr. Walker.

Pub Date: 4/05/96

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