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Christus St. Vincent Hospital Cutting 12 More Jobs

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center officials this week informed 12 employees that their jobs are being eliminated, hospital CEO Alex Valdez said Thursday.

That brings to 44 the number of jobs cut at Christus St. Vincent this year, according to Valdez.

He said the hospital administration is in the process of scheduling interviews for the 12 employees affected by this week’s cuts —mostly nonmedical personnel, including patient advocates and human resources staffers — “to see if there are other jobs they can take within the hospital.”

“If not, they may find themselves taking severance or being laid off,” Valdez said.

None of these employees are part of the bargaining unit for the nurses and technicians union, which over the summer went through a bitter negotiation with Christus St. Vincent before approving a new contract.

Valdez said that of the 32 employees whose positions were eliminated previously this year, 24 took other jobs at the hospital, seven chose to take severance and leave, and one wasn’t offered another job.

“For all intents and purposes, one person was laid off,” Valdez said. “Others will debate that, but that’s how I articulate it.”

Valdez maintained that the hospital has done a good job of managing potential job losses, considering that it has taken what he said is a $27 million hit to its budget this year.

The revenue reduction comes from reduced support for indigent care from Santa Fe County, a commensurate loss in federal matching funds and reduced reimbursement from the federal Medicaid program.

He said the nonprofit hospital has cut expenses and raised new revenue to improve its reserves and “margin” — revenue over expenses — by expanding services through such measures as its recent purchase of the small Physicians Medical Center and increasing its number of surgeries.

Otherwise, Valdez said, the hospital could be facing the loss of as many as 350-400 jobs.

Christus St. Vincent and the Santa Fe County Commission are at odds over the county’s support for indigent care.

In recent years, the county has provided $6 million to $9 million annually to the hospital — allowing Christus St. Vincent to attract more than $20 million in matching federal funds per year. But this year the commission, citing its own budget worries, has approved less than $2.5 million for the hospital.

County officials have questioned the hospital’s gloomy description of its budget and say they want more transparency from Christus. In its most recent federally required financial disclosure statement, for the 2009 fiscal year, Christus St. Vincent reported $21.3 million in revenue over expenses and big raises for its top executives.

In its 2009 disclosure statement, the hospital reported that it had 2,323 employees and total revenue of $299 million.