Interim Chief Executive Officer Dr. Kendall Griffith confirmed that the Juan F. Luis Medical Center is on the verge of unveiling a “contingency plan” to help lower costs at the struggling hospital that could ultimately involve further layoffs.
Griffith could not yet reveal many details of the plan, but he said the majority of the savings would come from eliminating contracts with outside companies that provide services at JFL.
He did not specify which contracts would be eliminated, but during a Senate hearing in March, Griffith and Chief Financial Officer Deepak Bansal indicated that arrangements with companies that provide support to the pharmacy, information technology and billing departments could be severed.
Griffith said eliminating staff was also a possibility.
“We have to think about the possibility of layoffs, but that hasn’t been finalized. We’re just not there yet,” he said.
At their March meeting, the hospital’s board of directors ordered Griffith and his executive staff to devise a contingency plan and present it to them by April 5.
Griffith confirmed that a plan had been compiled, but said his staff was still in conversation with the board over details.
“There’s still a lot of talking going on as to how we can look at other cost-saving measures,” he said, “because ultimately people’s lives will be affected by this. It’s a very serious thing and we’re taking it very seriously.”
Griffith added that the plan would require a vote from the board before going into effect.
He said they had already implemented a plan to reduce overtime costs throughout the hospital. Griffith said he has instructed nursing and administrative supervisors to cut any overtime spent on completing administrative tasks.
He stressed that overtime was still authorized for employees engaged in medical tasks and that the quality of care would not be affected by the initiative.
“If care is going to be affected, there’s going to be overtime if it’s needed,” he said.
Griffith’s comments came after he addressed the Rotary West Club of St. Croix Tuesday evening.
His remarks to the Rotarians walked the line between optimism and fiscal realism, and they closely mirrored testimony Griffith gave during the Senate hearing in March.
He stressed the need to instill a greater sense of professionalism at the hospital through aesthetic improvements to the facilities and by instituting a standard uniform for all employees.
He also said it was imperative for the hospital to increase its revenues so it could begin to pay back the approximately $42 million of debt it owes.
Griffith said he would like to increase the number of outpatient surgeries done at the hospital because those procedures are fully covered by Medicaid, unlike surgeries that require the patient to stay overnight. In those cases, Medicaid pays a per diem rate that may not cover all of the hospital’s costs.
Griffith also suggested opening a retail pharmacy at the hospital so patients could fill their subscriptions immediately after being discharged.
“What we want is to be able to have a hospital that every single person on this island could be very proud of,” he said, adding that the aim is for everyone to “feel very, very confident” that they’re coming to JFL for their care.