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Hospital lays off workers

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"OGDENSBURG — Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center has laid off eight full-time employees and is seeking other ways to cut costs to cope with shrinking revenues and rising expenses.

In the first half of this year, the hospital’s revenues have grown less than one percent while expenses have risen four percent, according to information provided by the hospital.

These financial difficulties are attributed to a decrease in Medicare and Medicaid funding. Claxton-Hepburn will receive $450,000 less in Medicaid funds in 2012, and $806,000 less in 2013. These cuts will grow yearly as part of 2011’s Affordable Care Act.

More than 65 percent of Claxton-Hepburn’s patients are funded by either Medicare or Medicaid, making up a substantial part of the hospital’s budget, according to spokeswoman Laura C. Shea. Decreasing reimbursement is to be expected, she said, but the Affordable Care Act has made the cuts more severe.

“It’s dramatic how much it grows,” Mrs. Shea said.

These cuts will continue at all hospitals throughout the country through 2019.

The hospital also faces additional expenses, caused by employee prescription costs covered by the hospital’s insurance plan, which have risen $96,000 this year, along with rising employee salaries and a lack of state funding.

The hospital currently has approximately 675 full- and part-time employees.

The hospital is looking for other ways to cut costs, including using supplies more efficiently, assuring proper payment is being collected, and renegotiating service contracts.

“By making the difficult cuts that we’ve made now, we don’t plan on making any more cuts,” Mrs. Shea said. “We should be OK, we should not have to do anything dramatic.

Some of the those laid off worked in Claxton-Hepburn’s prenatal care clinic, which closed last year. There originally were plans to reopen the clinic, Mrs. Shea said, but it will remain closed in light of the hospital’s financial difficulties.

Most women receive prenatal care through their primary physician, and many are covered by Medicaid.

“This should not cause an access of care issue,” Mrs. Shea said.

Claxton-Hepburn is the second area hospital to announce staffing cuts. Massena Memorial Hospital laid off employees and instituted a hiring freeze on July 2.

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