Christus says reported layoffs not set in stone

St. Mary

With the transition of Christus-St. Mary Hospital to a short-stay inpatient hospital scheduled to begin Sept. 1 and the recent release of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Notice, the future of 162 Christus-St. Mary associates may appear unclear. Christus, however, says that these numbers do not necessarily equate to doom and gloom for its St. Mary associates.

The international Catholic, faith-based, not-for-profit health system recently announced major plans to not only transition St. Mary to a short-stay surgical hospital, but also to build a new “micro-hospital” in Mid-County and a new outpatient facility at 8801 Ninth Ave. in Port Arthur. These plans are part of a initiative by the company that includes increasing its service offerings from an existing 27 locations to more than 40 region-wide to the nine counties Christus Health Southeast Texas serves.

The WARN report released by the Texas Workforce Commission compiles mass layoff numbers reported by Texas employers 60 days in advance of scheduled layoffs, as required by the U.S. Department of Labor. It was recently released by TWC and then reported as layoffs by some local media outlets.

The report lists Christus Health Southeast Texas as a job site with a pending 162 layoffs scheduled for Sept. 1, 2015, in Port Arthur, where St. Mary Hospital is located. Wendy White, vice president of Human Resources for Christus Health, said, however, that the total layoff number of 162 in the WARN report do not necessarily reflect the total number of Christus-St. Mary associates that will actually be laid off.

“Unfortunately … if (the WARN report) stands on its own, it looks like … 162 people lose their jobs, but the fact behind that, within our organization, … is that there are many opportunities, and we are in that process,” White told The Examiner. “We actually begin the interview and selection (process) next week and it’s actually going very well. Our associates have been very receptive to the opportunities at St. Elizabeth and elsewhere in the region. We are going about it that way because we want to make sure the associates have the opportunity to be in a job that is a good fit for them, so we don’t just arbitrarily say, ‘This is where you will go.’ They actually have an opportunity to look at any of the units and departments and have conversations with those leaders. We want to find a long-term solution, not just a temporary one.”

In fact, White said Christus-St. Patrick Hospital representatives visited St. Mary on Wednesday, July 8, to visit with associates who might be interested in being reassigned to Lake Charles.

“We’ve targeted (Christus-St. Patrick) because they are the most logical geographic choice (besides St. Elizabeth) but we will continue to follow up with all the openings in our other sister hospitals in Louisiana and Texas,” White said.

The majority of the 162 associates affected by layoffs work in the departments of St. Mary Hospital that are being discontinued following the transition to short-stay including obstetrics, neonatal, intensive care, pediatric, cardiovascular and general medicine inpatient services, White confirmed.

In addition, “there are support services that have been asked to downsize in very small numbers just because the size of business will be a little different,” she said. “They are in the same situation. We still have opportunities for them … within Christus.”

White said Christus anticipates the process to be completed well before Sept. 1.

“We know this is a very anxious time for them, so we have committed and cleared our calendars and our moving as quickly as possible,” she said. “We fully intend that by the end of no later than July, everybody understands what will happen to them individually. They know which position they are going to is open and existent, or they know that they don’t have a position to transfer into.”