BURBANK : Hospital Employees Brace for Layoffs

Employees at St. Joseph's Medical Center will have to wait until at least the end of the month to learn who will be among the 195 to be laid off, hospital officials said.

"We will be trying to impact as few employees as possible with layoffs," said David O'Neill, acting administrator of the 650-bed hospital with 1,720 employees.

The volume of patients this year has dropped even further than had been expected. In the last half of 1992, the hospital eliminated 51 positions--all but 20 by not replacing workers who left--in preparation for the expected loss of business. Another 50 were laid off last year when the hospital closed a substance abuse program for adolescents.

Hospital officials partly blame the loss of major employers such as Lockheed Corp., and also point to declining numbers of patients in local hospitals.

Occupancy levels were down 9% in January from the year before, according to the Hospital Council of Southern California. In the San Fernando and Antelope valleys, hospital occupancy rates dropped 22.3% in the same period.

St. Joseph's had planned its budget this year with anticipated admissions for January to be 1,486, but the actual number was 1,290. Admissions in the hospital in January, 1992, was 1,430, said Susan Wyninegar, hospital director of marketing and public relations.

The hospital budgeted for a loss of about $126,000 in revenues for January, but instead lost $721,000, she gar said.

A hiring freeze was imposed March 9, O'Neill said. Some staffing cuts can be made by leaving jobs unfilled, and an offer of early retirement to employees could also be considered, O'Neill said.

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