BILLINGS - "I see no path forward where they become financially stable in the short term without layoffs at this point."
That's the dire prediction from one Billings Clinic employee, one day after the hospital announced a cost-cutting plan aimed at saving the hospital four and a half million dollars a month.
But those cutbacks are wide-reaching and have many now questioning the hospital’s quest to become the first level one trauma center in the state. As well as the status of its recently announced partnership with Logan Health. The employees that spoke with MTN did not want to be identified, fearing retribution from the hospital, but they say the news has many of the hospital’s 4,700 employees outraged.
"Honestly it’s confusion, panic, and fear because all of us that rely on our retirements are now set back a decade," said anonymous Billings Clinic employee number one on Saturday.
The changes include salary reductions of five percent for all physicians, 10 percent pay cuts for senior executive team members and a hiring freeze also remains in effect for most new hires as well as a pause for the employer match for 403-B retirement plans. In addition to that the organization says it's also looking at additional action to ensure the long-term health of the organization.
"A year of deferred retirement is a huge deal. And Billings Clinic, I feel like, is trying to minimize the impact of that on people and they’re doing that to save face," said anonymous employee number two on Saturday.
Both employees say something needs to be done.
"The long-term consequences are starting to show itself and it’s that Billings Clinic has huge amounts of money every month that they’re having to pay for contract labor. They’re having to bring in nurses, they’re having to bring in pharmacists and physicians," added employee number two.
In a letter to employees, Billings Clinic claims rising drug prices and labor costs have put the hospital in an unsustainable position.
The hospital provided this statement:
We are focused on addressing serious financial challenges facing our organization and the steps we will take are understandably difficult. Our costs to provide care are rising while reimbursement for that care remains essentially flat.
Every department is helping to find ways to decrease costs and increase patient access and we are seeing early successes in that work.
Billings Clinic has shown incredible resilience in the past in the face of challenges. By working together and staying focused on the needs of our patients and the communities we serve, we will ensure the success of our organization and our mission.
Billings Clinic would not specify how much money it’s losing each month, but these employees claim it’s in the millions.
"One bad decision leads to five more bad decisions and it seems like the cycle won’t stop," added employee number one.
And it's now employees paying the price.
"They could cut 100% of employee salary and still be losing money," employee number two added.
There are also several other potential impacts.
It’s unclear whether the cuts will torpedo the clinic's effort to become Montana’s first level one trauma center or if it will impact a new merger with Kalispell-based Logan Health.
"It’s a nonbinding agreement at this point, if Logan Health sees a threat, they’re free to just walk away from the table and that’s certainly a possibility.... The same decisions that have been made that put us in this position if they continue to be made, then Billings Clinic is looking at having to have government support, big nonprofit support or they’re going out of business," said employee number two.