46 employees at St. Christopher's laid off, hospital confirms

Posted: March 31, 2013

St. Christopher's Hospital for Children laid off 46 employees, administrators confirmed Friday, as health systems around the nation face increasing financial pressures.

"Our patients' experience will not be affected," Devin Bruton, the hospital's director of business development, said in a statement. "We care very much about all of our employees and worked to ensure the transition was smooth."

He said the layoffs represented about 2 percent of the 189-bed North Philadelphia hospital's workforce.

Tenet Healthcare Corp. of Dallas, the hospital's for-profit owner, announced in July it would invest $110 million in a new four-floor, 135,000-square-foot critical care tower with a new neonatal intensive care unit, as well as a 30,000-square-foot center for the urban child.

The expansion, expected to eventually add 300 jobs, will go on as planned, officials said.

A flurry of postings to Facebook and Internet chat rooms followed the March 15 layoffs. Many of the posts claimed administrators forced workers to sign an agreement to remain silent about the layoffs or risk losing their severance packages. Others mentioned that older workers, including those in management, were targeted to lose their jobs.

Neither Bruton nor Tenet officials responded to requests for comment about the claims, and they declined to say who was affected. St. Chris nurses are not protected by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) or the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association.

Bruton said the "ever-changing needs" of the community prompted the layoffs.

"Like all hospitals, we monitor the relationship between patient volume and length of stay to the size of our staff," Bruton wrote. "The need for some services has shifted, necessitating the difficult decision to adjust our staffing numbers accordingly."

Admissions are declining at many hospitals.

At St. Chris they were down 5 percent, to 9,968, for the year ending June 30, 2011, compared with the previous year, according to Pennsylvania Department of Health data.

Hospitals around the nation have been tightening their belts as health-care costs continue to rise and reimbursements, in many cases, decline. The federal health-care overhaul has added uncertainty about future trends, with one exception: there is certain to be added pressure to reduce expenses further.

Founded in 1875 as a one-room charitable pediatric clinic, St. Chris grew over the years into the biggest provider of children's medical care in one of the poorest areas of the country. It was bought in 1998 by Tenet, and is the pediatric teaching hospital for Drexel University College of Medicine.

Contact Sam Wood at 215-854-2796, samwood@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @samwoodiii.

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