CEO: UMC cutbacks necessary to stay afloat

LAS VEGAS -- University Medical Center is facing its biggest employee cut in recent history, with 285 layoffs. This move affects both employees and patients at the financially-struggling, county-run hospital.

UMC has more than $500 million in expenses a year and Clark County taxpayers have already given the hospital $71 million just to operate this year.

These latest cutbacks are expected to save $21 million over nine months.

UMC, for years, has faced financial woes hemorrhaging millions of dollars in red ink. The hospital is in critical condition financially, but its new CEO is offering a prescription for change. Patients at UMC's Lied Ambulatory Clinic learned the clinic will be closing.

"It's a shame," said Jim Vechiola, a patient. "I'm diabetic. I come here twice a week. This will ruin my life if they're going to close this facility."

At the end of September, Vechiola will have to find a new clinic and employees like Julie Garza, a nurse, will have to find another job.

"We're concerned about our families. We're concerned about our patients. We're concerned about our coworkers. We are a family here," Garza said.

Leading the UMC family is CEO Lawrence Barnard.

"This is a very difficult thing to do," he said.

He says the 285 layoffs, and eliminating or putting 61 vacant positions on hold, was a necessary step for the county-run hospital to stay viable.

UMC's outpatient oncology, outpatient pharmacy and Lied clinics will all go away because other local alternatives are available.

"We're doing what we can to streamline as much as we can, be as efficient as we can, so that we don't have to do this again. I don't like doing this, and I would rather get this done now and do it the most strategic way we can, than to have to do it again down the road," Barnard said.

"Every year for as long as I can remember, UMC has run at a big deficit," said Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak.

He says layoffs are unfortunate, but the money just isn't there.

"This year's subsidy was $71 million. We made it clear we couldn't continue to subsidize at that level. It's taken up all of the county resources," Sisolak said.

"The patients that come here are truly needy. They're truly needy. they have no resources but us," Garza said.

Some may not see this as a cure, but administrators believe it will allow UMC to flourish in future years.

The hospital will continue focusing on its quality healthcare, being Nevada's only level one trauma center. The hospital will work with patients to find other healthcare providers and they'll help laid-off employees.




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