Fears of more government layoffs grew Thursday following a Wednesday evening emergency meeting of the Roy L. Schneider Hospital board to discuss a critical budget shortfall.
The hospital is currently operating at a $3.59 million deficit and finances are continuing to decline. The management has been told to expect a $20 million appropriation for Fiscal Year 2013 – which begins October 1 – as opposed to the $27 million it had in 2011.
But according to Chief Financial Officer Eugene Welsh, things will be dire before that. He said at the current rate, the hospital will be unable to meet payroll after August 11.
Last week Juan Luis Hospital on St. Croix dismissed 85 licensed practical nurses and certified nursing assistants – roughly half its nursing staff. That came shortly after the Education Department sent home 23 teachers and paraprofessionals.
The discussion Wednesday was of Schneider hospital administration’s obligations to consider all options in meeting the shortfall, from trying to get more grant money to deferring non-essential maintenance, according to board member Maria Tankenson-Hodge, but “one option would have to be some lay-offs.”
It’s an option management will avoid if at all possible, according to interim Chief Executive Officer Angela Rennall-Atkinson, who said Thursday that layoffs “will be a last resort.”
If there are personnel reductions, she said, they are more likely to affect contract workers than regular employees.
Meanwhile, she said, the hospital is looking to see what can be reduced and also trying to improve collections.
“We’re not going to compromise patient safety,” she stressed.