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Community Heart 2

Dr. Dean French, left, CEO of Community Medical Center, and Dr. Randall Gibb, Billings Clinic CEO, discuss the new heart program partnership between the hospitals in early April of 2018.

Community Medical Center has eliminated the jobs of 16 employees, effective immediately, which hospital CEO Dr. Dean French blamed on state budget cuts.

French sent an email to the entire medical staff on Friday, April 20. A copy was obtained by the Missoulian. 

"Late last fall the state of Montana made a number of healthcare-related cuts in an effort to address the projected state budget shortfall," French wrote. "The vast majority of the cuts were to the Medicaid reimbursement rate, which has directly impacted hospitals across the state including Community Medical Center. The impact on our facility resulted in over $6 million of payment reductions for 2018."

As a result, the hospital decided to make the "difficult decision" to reduce the size of its overall workforce, he continued.

"We were intentional to avoid the elimination of direct patient care providers," he wrote. "The employees whose jobs have been eliminated have been notified. We will offer alternative positions to those who qualify. All of the individuals affected made significant contributions to Community Medical Center. The impact of their not being here is difficult to imagine, for them personally, but also for their colleagues who are still here."

French said Community Medical Center's loss of revenue is disproportionately larger than that faced by other major hospitals in the state because of the patient population it serves.

"Our focus on women's and children's care, adult rehabilitative care, brain injury patients and the severely disabled, makes our facility more reliant on state Medicaid," he wrote. "As we look to the future, the state Medicaid Expansion Act or HELP is slated to end in June of 2019, further challenging hospitals across Montana."

Megan Condra, the director of marketing and community relations at CMC, said Saturday that all of the people whose jobs were eliminated were in management or were in non-clinical staff positions. The hospital's human resources team is working with those who lost their jobs to "ensure a smooth transition.''

She told the Missoulian that Friday was a "sad" day. "They were talented people. But we are trying to be proactive for how 2019 is setting up."

Community Medical Center was a nonprofit until 2015, when it was sold to a partnership between Billings Clinic and RegionalCareHospital Partners (now called RCCH Healthcare Partners) and switched to a for-profit model.

CMC employs roughly 1,100 people and has an annual payroll of over $65 million, according to its website.

Condra noted that since CMC switched to a for-profit model, it pays property taxes, can't raise funds like a nonprofit and still performs a large amount of charity care for people who can't pay.

 "While the layoffs impact a small percentage of our workforce,'' she said, the changing dynamics of health care made them necessary.

French, in his note to the staff Friday, also cited the need to look ahead.

"The first step to remaining one of the state's best hospitals, while continuing to grow the organization in order to meet the needs of Western Montana, is to realign our workforce in light of these state payment changes," French wrote. "Making this decision is painful, but it is necessary to maintain a resilient, flexible healthcare system that is prepared for the future.

"Thank you for your support as we all face the changing landscape of healthcare in our country," he concluded.

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