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By NICOLE CLARK

Staff writer

Hundreds of employees have been laid off at MedStar Health during the past several months, but communication officials say those job cuts haven’t included MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital employees, and there are no talks of layoffs here in the future.

“For the hospital, we do not have any plans at all to lay off or engage in any reduction in force,” said Evelyn Campos Diaz, director of human resources, organizational learning and research, at MedStar St. Mary’s. The Leonardtown hospital is fully staffed, she said, and there has been no interruption in care.

According to county government figures, the hospital has more than 1,100 workers, and is the second-largest employer in St. Mary’s County, falling only behind Patuxent River Naval Air Station, where about 22,000 are employed.

The hospital is aware of that standing, and “we take our position seriously,” Diaz said. “We are watching the industry, caring for patients and making sure we can provide services for the community.”

As a system, MedStar Health says it is a $4.4 billion, not-for-profit organization with 10 hospitals and 20 other health-related businesses across Maryland and Washington, D.C.

But budgetary issues forced MedStar Washington Hospital Center to lay off about 300 employees, or 5 percent of its workforce, in early November. Over the past year in the Baltimore area, MedStar Health also reduced its workforce by about 100 positions in the Baltimore area, although many were through attrition.

In both cases, those cuts had to do largely with changes in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, a decline in patient admissions, and the cost of implementing health care reform, said Ann Nickels, communications director for MedStar Health. Last year, $17 million in services were provided, but not reimbursed when the Chartered Health Plan in the District went bankrupt. And, reimbursements will continue to be an issue, Nickels said.

In a separate matter, MedStar also reported that about 200 employees were laid off in its facilities, project management and real estate division. But those employees all would have a chance to be employed by CBRE Group Inc., the company now contracted as service provider for those efforts. Amid all the changes, that’s “the good news story,” said Nickels.

With the CBRE change, “there is no job loss scenario there at all,” Nickels said. “That, I think, is an important message.”

Moving those jobs to contractual work, Nickels said was “a business decision.” The hospital system brought on a firm whose purpose is to manage buildings and locate real estate opportunities. MedStar Health is focusing on its mission to deliver health care, she said.

MedStar St. Mary’s leaders said they’ve been working to bring some of the employees who lost jobs elsewhere into open positions at their Leonardtown location. “I am looking for MedStar Health folks to continue to work in MedStar Health,” Diaz said.

Locally, the hospital has been making plans to grow in the community, attracting more physicians and making improvements to facilities. Diaz also said, “we are very blessed” to have the hospital foundation raising money for scholarships, which helps recruit students interested in pursuing careers in health care. It’s a much-needed outreach, she said, as baby boomers retire and the need for care rises.

“There is a reason why we have so many partners,” Diaz said. “We are here to help out the community, provide service, and we hope to do that for many, many years.

“We’re very transparent with our workforce,” Diaz said. “If there were changes that might come down in the future, our workforce would be the first to know,” she said. “We look at every opportunity to keep our folks employed here.”

nclark@somdnews.com