Bristol Hospital Arielle Levin Becker / The CT Mirror
This is a photo of Bristol Hospital President and CEO Kurt Barwis
Bristol Hospital CEO Kurt Barwis Arielle Levin Becker / The CT Mirror

Bristol Hospital has eliminated 43 positions in recent weeks, reducing its workforce by 5 percent in response to major cuts to Medicaid and Medicare payments, CEO Kurt Barwis wrote in a memo to staff, volunteers and community members Friday.

Nineteen layoffs occurred Friday, Barwis wrote, while 18 occurred over the past eight weeks and another six vacant positions are being eliminated. Together, they will save $3.6 million, he wrote.

Barwis wrote that the hospital already had reduced expenses by nearly $3 million after facing a $5 million reduction in Medicare and Medicaid payments this fiscal year. But he said the hospital is now facing “an unprecedented cut” in Medicaid payments – $4.5 million – in the upcoming fiscal year, and a $2.5 million cut to Medicare payments starting in October.

The Medicaid cut comes from the state budget legislators passed June 3, which relies on both increased taxes and reduced payments to hospitals. Legislators are expected to revise the package in a special session, but Barwis wrote that he has “no definitive indication or information that these cuts will be moderated.”

“We are one of the lowest-cost hospitals in Connecticut with some of the highest quality and safety outcomes,” he wrote. “We cannot cut our way to financial viability given our cost position and the severity of these cuts.”

Two of the state’s largest hospital systems also have announced cuts since the June 3 budget votes. The Yale New Haven Health System is planning to close two outpatient clinics and Hartford HealthCare – the parent company of Hartford, Windham and Backus hospitals, MidState Medical Center and The Hospital of Central Connecticut – announced plans to eliminate about 335 fulltime-equivalent positions, affecting 418 employees.

Nearly one-third of Bristol Hospital’s savings come from consolidating leadership positions, Barwis wrote. That includes eliminating 11 leadership positions and two open posts, including two executive-level jobs.

Other savings will come from reorganizing outpatient behavioral health services, restructuring the facilities department and reorganizing the information technology department.

“There will be, and has been, no impact to the safety and quality of the care provided at the bedside or to the support staff that ensures the patient/visitor experience is nothing short of extraordinary,” Barwis wrote.

Arielle Levin Becker covered health care for The Connecticut Mirror. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant, most recently as its health reporter, and has also covered small towns, courts and education in Connecticut and New Jersey. She was a finalist in 2009 for the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists, a recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and the third-place winner in 2013 for an in-depth piece on caregivers from the National Association of Health Journalists. She is a 2004 graduate of Yale University.

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