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Swedish May Cut Up to 300 Jobs in Puget Sound; Edmonds Upgrades Safe

The hospital says its economic woes are largely due to government cuts and patients without commercial insurance.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new information regarding Swedish/Edmond and Swedish/Mill Creek.

Swedish Medical Center this week announced that it was shedding 300 jobs, citing a rise in the number of patients without commercial insurance and government cuts in health-care funding.

Swedish has five  hospitals in Puget Sound, including Swedish/Edmonds, formerly known as Stevens Hospital. Swedish took over operations of Stevens, an independent hospital for 47 years, on Sept. 1, 2010.

According to Swedish spokesman Ed Boyle, the cost-cutting measures do not affect the $150 million in upgrades in Edmonds over the next decade, which was reported by The Herald last month. The first upgrade is a new $6 million cancer center, the Swedish Cancer Institute, that is expected to open early next year. The hospital is also scheduled to get a new emergency room.

The entire Swedish Medical Center group is now facing a $19 million budget gap, largely due to patients without insurance.

“High unemployment in the region means we are seeing more and more Medicaid and charity-care patients and are writing off more cases as ‘bad debt’ due to people being unable to pay their medical bills,” said Swedish President and CEO Rod Hochman.

Swedish added that it was being affected by an aging population and that it is also seeing more patients on Medicare. While Medicare pays better than Medicaid, it still does not cover the full cost of providing care or reimburse at the same level as commercial insurance, the hospital said.

The job cuts that could affect about 300 people are about 3 percent of Swedish’s workforce. These include union and non-union jobs, as well as vacant positions, across the organization.

"Although Swedish has not yet made a final determination as to where the 300 positions will be eliminated system-wide," said Boyle, "we’re confident the total number will be less than that due to redeployment (especially to our new campus in Issaquah), attrition, not filling some open positions, etc. So, although we’re using benchmarking and best-practice data to help us decide where efficiencies can and should be had, we don’t yet know the exact extent to which individual campuses—like Swedish/Edmonds—will be affected."

Boyle added: "As it relates to Swedish/Mill Creek, I can tell you that due to its efficient operational structure—and the higher-than-expected volumes they’ve consistently been seeing since opening earlier this year—none of the 300 positions will come from that ambulatory care facility."

Founded in 1910, Swedish Health Services is a private, nonprofit health system and the largest health-care provider in the greater Seattle area. It is comprised of five hospital campuses (First Hill, Ballard, Cherry Hill, and Issaquah), freestanding emergency departments and ambulatory care centers in Redmond and Mill Creek, Swedish Visiting Nurse Services, and Swedish Medical Group—a network of more than 70 primary-care and specialty clinics.

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