Politics

February 24, 2013

Hospital job cuts fuel debt debate

Republicans contend Democrats hold up action on Gov. LePage's plan to pay what the state owes.

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

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click image to enlarge

Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington last week announced it was cutting 35 to 40 jobs, mostly through layoffs.

Courtesy Franklin Memorial Hospital

David Sorensen, spokesman for House Republicans, said the party wasn't trying to suggest the debt is the only factor in the Farmington hospital's layoffs, but "their financial situation would be better if they got a check from the state for the $15.4 million that's owed to them."

Tuttle, the Democrat who heads the committee that will hear the liquor bill next month, said he's sympathetic to the Farmington hospital's plight, because Goodall Hospital in Sanford, a city in his district, has faced pay cuts in recent years.

Ryder also said $2 million per year in federal Medicare money her hospital received since the 1990s ran out in December, and the program wasn't renewed by Congress.

That's coupled with a $500,000 increase in charity care and bad debt over the last fiscal year, along with economic difficulty and health care reform dropping reimbursement rates relating to state, federal and private insurance plans.

"Everybody wants to rein in the spending," she said.

Jeffrey Austin, spokesman for the Maine Hospital Association, said rural hospitals have faced similar problems before. While debt is "a significant factor," it isn't the only one facing them.

"I don't think you can tease out one of them as being to blame," he said. "There are a number of challenges right now."

Michael Shepherd can be reached at 370-7652 or at:

mshepherd@mainetoday.com

 

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