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Wake Forest Baptist Hospital to eliminate 950 jobs

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center will lay off 76 employees this week and cut a total of 950 jobs by the end of next June, the center's chief executive said Wednesday.

Dr. John McConnell said most of the cuts are administrative positions, but some faculty members could lose their jobs due to cuts in federal research funding. He also said 2012-13 revenue is being affected by "deep cuts in Medicare and Medicaid payments, which constitute nearly half of our health-care reimbursements."

In a statement, the center said the cuts were being made "after a long and careful review of current staffing levels across the organization."

The center said its restructuring is "designed to position the institution for success aligned with the challenges of health-care reform, federal budget deficits and a decline in research funding from The National Institutes of Health and private industry.

The center said half of the overall job cuts to its Winston-Salem operations would be achieved through eliminating vacant, temporary and contract labor positions, as well as through attrition and employee retirement.

Also among the cuts are 56.5 jobs at the Lexington Medical Center affiliate, of which 52 already are gone through integration of its back office operations, retirements and attrition.

McConnell said the restructuring is "not based on financial difficulty, but is purely preemptive to best position the center going forward. Like most companies, we are getting leaner.

"This represents all of the job reductions based on our current knowledge," McConnell said, adding that it would be "hard to imagine a section of the hospital not being directly or indirectly affected by the restructuring."

"This change will not affect nurse-to-patient ratios, the quality of patient care or the pioneering research that is occurring at Wake Forest Baptist each day," the center said in a statement.

McConnell said the existing nurse-to-patients ratios are "sacrosanct" for the hospital.

The employees whose jobs are being eliminated this week will receive their full pay and benefits through Jan. 4, and after that, their severance benefits will begin.

Michael Walden, an economics professor at N.C. State University, said he considers Wake Forest Baptist's action a "major layoff and a signal of challenges facing many hospitals who are being prompted to increase efficiency."

"I think this is a bellwether announcement likely to be repeated across the state and nation," Walden said.