Berkshire Health Systems announces layoffs

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PITTSFIELD -- Berkshire Health Systems, the parent company of Berkshire Medical Center, announced today that 124 full- and part-time employees -- or 3.7 percent of the workforce -- have received layoff notices.

The across-the-board staff reductions will begin Sept. 10 and include 20 registered nurses nursing with the rest affecting technical, administrative and support services, said BHS officials. The reduction represents 94 full-time equivalent positions.

Berkshire Health Systems employs approximately 2,700 people, and it is Berkshire County's largest employer.

The company offered severance packages and says it will help those people launch job searches.

In a statement, the hospital said the reasons for this year's layoffs remain the same as last year's: Declining patient volume and a continued drop in health insurance reimbursements.

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"Since October of 2009, BMC has experienced a loss of $11 million in patient revenue that is directly related to the reduction in patient volume," the company's statement said. "Inpatient discharges alone have declined by over 7 percent in the past two years."

BMC is part of a national trend in which fewer people are seeking hospital care.

Company officials cited a March 2009 survey by The American Hospital Association which found that between 55 and 60 percent of the nation's 1,100 community hospitals had a moderate or significant decrease in elective surgeries and admissions.

Berkshire Health Systems says people are delaying or simply avoiding health care due to increased health insurance deductibles and co-payments.

The health care company has found many employers have switched from commercial insurance plans to much cheaper state-sponsored programs. While the business owners are saving money, government backed health insurance typically reimburse hospitals and physicians at a lower rate than private plans for the same medical services.


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