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Christus Hospital Shifting Workers, Some Could Lose Jobs

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Fourteen employees were informed last week they are part of an internal reorganization at Christus St. Vincent’s Regional Medical Center, and some nurses are being replaced by medical assistants.

Hospital management says the 14 employees are being affected by the reorganization. But that doesn’t mean they’re being laid off, and Christus St. Vincent’s is working to place them in other positions, a hospital spokesman said.

The workers still have jobs now at Christus St. Vincent’s, said spokesman Arturo Delgado, but he didn’t know how many would still be employed after July 1, the first day of the next fiscal year.

“We are working to place as many as we can in existing jobs,” he said.

The leader of the union that represents nurses at the hospital said that seven nurses are among those feeling the impact of the reorganization.

Fonda Osborn. district president of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, said five nurses in the pediatric clinic are being replaced by “lower skilled” medical assistants. The nurses are being offered training for other jobs, Osborn said. She said the group includes veteran nurses who have worked in pediatrics for years.

Also affected is Delma DeLora, longtime leader of the nurse’s union, according to Osborn. DeLora is being moved from the patient care excellence operation — intended to work with patients and families on care issues — to sports and wellness, Osborn said. She said there will no longer be a registered nurse in patient care excellence.

Osborn described DeLora as “a key pillar” of Christus St. Vincent who has stood up for the hospital before the county commission and in other forums.

Christus St. Vincent’s — which employes more than 2,000 people at an annual cost of more than $140 million, according to officials there — is facing a funding reduction of $21 million, due in part, to declines in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement, and a drop in money provided by Santa Fe County, spokesman Delgado said.

Delgado wouldn’t say whether the employees who stay on would get cuts in pay.

Asked whether the restructuring has anything to do with continuing negotiations between the hospital and the union on a new contract, Delgado replied “No.”

Delgado confirmed that some nurses are being replaced with medical assistants at St. Vincent’s, but he wouldn’t provide numbers.

Delgado said medical assistants are more appropriate for a clinic setting — such as a primary care doctor’s office — than nurses, whose skills are better used in a hospital setting such as an emergency room or surgeon’s office.

The change, he said, “doesn’t effect the quality of care or level of care you receive in a clinic setting.”

In a message to employees that hospital CEO and president Alex Valdez sent out last week, he said he understood that change can bring discomfort but that “this modest restructuring ensures our commitment to preserving jobs and allows for the long-term sustainability of this hospital for our community.”

In a statement Thursday, Valdez said the restructuring “is one of several approaches to address a budget shortfall while continuing to provide quality and compassionate care in the region.”

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