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Union Talk, Layoffs Hit Hospitals

Indian River Medical Center in Vero Beach announced Thursday it was laying off 39 employees, trimming benefits and taking other actions to reduce expenses by $10 million, according to a memo from top  hospital officials obtained by Health News Florida.

“We must become more efficient,” stated the memo, from President and CEO Jeffrey L. Susi and Dan Janicak, chief financial and operating officer.

He attributes the trouble to “health care reform and other financial pressures,” but actually the financial squeeze on Florida hospitals was created by the Florida Legislature. This spring, when it turned down federal Medicaid expansion funds, the Florida House deprived hospitals of a great deal of revenue that had been intended for them under the Affordable Care Act.

The funds that Florida turned down amounted to an estimated $51 billion over 10 years.

Meanwhile at Orlando Health, nearly 150 workers met Thursday afternoon to discuss forming a union in the wake of announced cuts in pay to night-shift and weekend workers, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Workers plan to take an online petition protesting the cuts that has 4,700 names to CEO Sherrie Sitarek on Tuesday. Sitarek has been making the rounds in the eight-hospital system to forestall the unionizing effort, but she has become a lightning rod after giving herself a raise to more than $1 million in annual salary.

 (more to come)

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.