BRHS cutting 16 positions

Published 1:38 pm Thursday, April 29, 2010

Staff Writer

Beaufort Regional Health System will eliminate the jobs of 16 of its employees as part of its continuing effort to reduce costs to help it weather the current recession, BRHS CEO Bill Bedsole announced Wednesday.
The employees, who hold an equivalent of about 12 full-time positions, represent about 2 percent of the health system’s 750 employees.
Most of the jobs will be eliminated at the end of this week, Bedsole said.
The affected employees will be offered a two-weeks severance package and will be paid for any accrued vacation time. They also will be eligible for unemployment benefits, and some may be eligible to apply for other jobs that are currently available within the system, he said.
In an interview with the Daily News, Bedsole characterized the reduction in the medical center’s work force as “modest.”
“But you know you are affecting people’s lives,” he said. “You hate to tell people their positions are being eliminated.”
The job reductions are part of an effort by the health system — which includes Beaufort County Medical Center and several local medical practices — to eliminate about $1.8 million in costs from its $80 million budget over the next 18 months, Bedsole said.
The majority of the cost-cutting measures — about $1.275 million — are being taken in the health system’s medical practices through such efforts as renegotiating payments to the practices from insurance companies and reducing medical-malpractice-insurance costs, Bedsole said.
Other reductions will come from consolidating some services offered by the system, he said.
“We are finding ways to do things more efficiently,” Bedsole said.
The cost-cutting measures are part of a two-prong approach advocated by the health system’s Board of Commissioners, whose members began a study of cost-containment measures in January.
On Tuesday, the commissioners voted to hire a consulting firm to help the health system study a possible affiliation with another hospital system. One of the options being explored by the firm, HealthCare Appraisers Inc., includes an arrangement under which Beaufort County Medical Center would lease its facilities to another, larger hospital system — a move that is part of a national trend for hospitals of a similar size.
“It’s just tough times,” Bedsole said. “And people are choosing not to access health care.”
The measures taken this week are the latest of several efforts by the health system to reduce its costs since the economic downturn began more than two years ago.
In January 2009, the health system imposed a one-year salary freeze. Last summer, employees were asked to take a temporary 5 percent cut in pay, among other cost-cutting measures.