Midtown Raleigh News

WakeMed to shut down nursing homes in cost-cutting move

WakeMed Health & Hospitals, one of the Triangle’s biggest employers, plans to lay off more than 100 workers as the Raleigh-based organization faces its first financial loss in years. The cuts will span interpreters, nurses, case managers, rehabilitation therapists and food prep workers.

Most of the cuts will come as a result of shutting down a 15-year-old nursing home in Fuquay-Varina that’s home to 36 people, some of whom have lived there for more than a decade. The patients, who are unable to care for themselves and range in age from 23 to about 90, will be moved to other area facilities in the next two months.

“We’re going to be helping patients and their family members get through the shock of this first,” said Elaine Rohlik, WakeMed’s executive director for rehabilitation and trauma services. “A small proportion of these patients have no family members to help them and no financial resources. We’ll help them find a place to go.”

WakeMed officials say they are victims of federal and state policy changes that will cost the hospital $23 million in lost revenue in the coming year. The biggest financial drains will come from cuts to Medicare reimbursements and from the state’s decision not to expand Medicaid coverage, which will result in poor people using the hospital without paying.

WakeMed, which employs about 8,500 people, has lost about $15 million in the fiscal year that ends in September. The company continues reviewing a range of cost-saving scenarios that could result in more announcements in the months ahead.

WakeMed CEO Bill Atkinson, addressing all employees in a recent memo, warned of looming changes and pending cuts.

“You will see some tough choices are going to have to be made, which are likely to impact certain services we provide and some of the talented workforce we employ,” his memo said.

The company is laying off 111 workers in all, some of them part-timers.

“To be in a position like this is just really hard,” Rohlik said.

Shutting down nursing homes in Fuquay-Varina and in Zebulon will save $4 million, Rohlik said. The Zebulon facility has 14 patients who typically stay less than a month; the facility is expected to be vacated by the time it’s slated to cease operations in September.

Rohlik said the region now has many more nursing homes now than it did when WakeMed got into the nursing home business. WakeMed is also in discussions to transfer the most severely disabled patients to a nursing home operator on a payment plan.

WakeMed will likely donate the one-story facility in Fuquay-Varina to the community, spokeswoman Debra Laughery said.

The shutting down of nursing homes will require approval from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

WakeMed also announced Wednesday that it will lay off 14 of its 19 staff interpreters as it outsources interpretation services to InDemand Interpreting, which provides interpretation services remotely via video to hospitals throughout the country.

This move will save money, Laughery said, but it largely stems from WakeMed’s inability to find interpreters for the more than 130 languages that patients speak at the two hospitals and seven emergency departments in its network.

Five Spanish interpreters will be kept on staff for circumstances that require face-to-face translations. The rest will be able to apply for other positions in the company as WakeMed is putting a priority on internal hiring to ease the brunt of the layoffs.