Jobs safe at St. Charles Parish Hospital, Ochsner official says

Statement comes after 60 percent of employees laid off at recently-purchased River Parishes Hospital

Despite the fallout of massive layoffs at River Parishes Hospital announced in conjunction with Ochsner Health System’s purchase of the facility, an Ochsner spokesman has said St. Charles Parish Hospital employees should not fear for their jobs.

David Gaines, senior vice president of public affairs at Ochsner, said the health system’s management agreement with St. Charles Parish Hospital and takeover of River Parishes Hospital are two very different deals that cannot be compared to each other.

“The reason River Parishes Hospital is downsizing is because it is not a service district and not eligible for matching funds,” he said.

In contrast, St. Charles Parish Hospital is a non-profit service district hospital backed by local taxpayers that is eligible for more Medicaid and Medicare funding.

“River Parishes was trying to be run by a for-profit entity and didn’t do well,” Gaines said.

Though 90 of River Parishes Hospital’s 150 employees were laid off, Gaines said St. Charles Parish Hospital employees will not have to worry about layoffs in the future.

Gaines statement comes only a month after 21 nurses were notified they would no longer be employed with St. Charles Parish Hospital when Ochsner took over management of the Luling facility. Of those 21 nurses, 12 were later offered positions following public outcry over their terminations.

As opposed to saying the employees were terminated, Gaines said they were no longer eligible to be rehired because the nurses were placed on a “do not rehire” list when they previously worked at other Ochsner facilities.

“The facts are that the employees that were not hired by Ochsner were not eligible to be rehired,” he said. “When we took over management of the facility everyone applied to work for Ochsner and there were nine employees that weren’t eligible to be rehired.”

Gaines said the nine employees were simply considered ineligible to fill positions under the management agreement Ochsner has with St. Charles Parish Hospital and that their jobs would be filled by new employees.

“The jobs were still there and they will remain there. We will replace those people. The jobs didn’t go anywhere,” he said.

In fact, Gaines said Ochsner has no incentive to cut costs through layoffs and salary reductions because they operate as a non-profit organization.

“I think one of the things that’s misconstrued is we don’t take the profit. It is operated profit or loss, [income] doesn’t come to us. If we cut the [employee] head count in half it wouldn’t change one penny,” he said.  “What incentive would we have? The motivation would seem to be borne out of conspiracy.”

Gaines said the reason both St. Charles Parish Hospital and River Parishes Hospital are better off in the Ochsner system, which now includes 14 hospitals in the region, is that they are better situated to cut operating costs.

“The only way you can survive is reducing expenses,” he said.

Gaines said the reduction in operating expenses would come from being able to negotiate less expensive contracts with suppliers and service providers.

Another reason, according to Gaines, that employees at St. Charles Parish Hospital should not be concerned with further layoffs is that River Parishes Hospital will no longer offer impatient services and more patients will likely come to St. Charles Parish Hospital for treatment.

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