Uncertainty makes painful situations worse.
That’s why it was a relief to hear that those in charge of the restructuring at Trios Health have pledged to be as open and straightforward about the process as possible.
The Kennewick Public Hospital District’s health care system has been hurting financially for a long time.
That’s no secret.
Now an outside firm has been hired to help make a course correction, and the changes may be tough to take — especially in certain departments and for certain people.
Cuts in staffing hours are part of the plan, and employees started getting notices last week. The goal is to reduce enough hours to equal 93 full-time hospital employees and 23 full-time Trios Medical Group clinic workers.
However, those numbers don’t directly correlate with the number of people who should be readying their résumés.
Some layoffs will happen, but hospital officials say the majority of cuts will be made through attrition and by reducing hours, changing shifts and limiting per diem training.
Craig Cudworth of Quorum Health Resources has been named chief restructuring officer during the transition. Quorum was hired last fall to evaluate Trios operations and recommend suggestions for improvement. That plan is being implemented now.
He and Trios officials recently met with our editorial board to discuss the strategies they plan to implement over the next several months in order to improve the hospital district’s bottom line.
At the meeting, Cudworth assured us that he would answer any question about Trios’ reorganization as long as he wasn’t restricted for legal reasons.
Making a commitment to transparency is a good first step.
Embracing a spirit of openness is important whenever any public agency sets out to make significant changes in its operations. Otherwise, anxiety can build in the community and then distrust follows — making it difficult to move forward.
Trios Health includes two hospitals, as well as a network of urgent care centers and other services. Employees total about 1,200.
After years of trying to expand, it was quite a feat in 2014 when the Kennewick Public Hospital District finally opened its new hospital at Southridge.
But a financial crunch several months later prompted layoffs that concerned the community. The budget crisis also severed the hospital district board into two camps and a bitter dispute ensued over how to fix the balance sheet.
Hard feelings still may linger from the disagreement. But there is now a corrective plan in place, and the community is counting on Quorum to show Trios how to put its finances back in the black.
In addition to making staff cuts, Trios plans to seek refinancing options and possibly consider the merits of joining or affiliating with another, larger health care system.
Stand-alone hospitals, in general, are in jeopardy, Cudworth said.
And the uncertainty over what will happen to the Affordable Care Act is also a factor. Health care agencies throughout the country are experiencing financial challenges — not just Trios.
There is not a single reason why Trios found itself in dire financial straits. It was a combination of factors that led to a “perfect storm,” Cudworth said.
Those include the district’s debt load, patient volumes that were less than expected and aggressive competition — meaning Kadlec, which among other things, built an emergency center in Kennewick.
Cudworth is expected to be named interim CEO later this month. Glen Marshal, current Trios CEO, announced earlier this year that he will retire in June and is transitioning away from day-to-day management of the health care system.
In addition to making the restructuring process as open as possible, Cudworth also pledged that patient care will continue to be the priority and that “the community will not suffer at the end of this.”
Those are reassuring words. We hope Quorum’s plan is successful and Trios can turn itself around.