Stein Hospice cut 32 employees from its payroll last week, leaving a staff of 290 employees to care for 350 clients.
“It was heartbreaking,” said Jan Bucholz, CEO at Stein Hospice.
The employee cuts were felt in all departments to minimize the impact to any one department, she said.
The reduced levels, 12 percent of staffing, will have no impact on patient care because the agency has 17 percent fewer patients than it did last year, she said.
Bucholz referred to the move as "right-sizing," adding that Stein Hospice remains committed to providing the highest-quality care.
The reduction came as a result of significant cuts in reimbursements from Medicare, which affected the entire hospice industry. Those cuts affect Stein Hospice significantly because 90 percent of the patients are Medicare clients.
The last Medicare cuts happened about eight months ago, and Bucholz expects them to occur again in the coming years.
That loss of funding was combined with a second punch: a trend of quick deaths. About 68 percent of hospice patients die within the first 14 days, Bucholz said.
“That is difficult,” Bucholz said.
It's difficult for all involved emotionally, but it's also tough on the agency's finances.
The first two weeks with a patient require a lot of payroll because staff work to make the patient comfortable, as well as moderating medications and building relationships with the patient and the family.
Still, the difficult cuts today have helped ensure the agency's performance for the next few years.
“The good news is we won't be having this conversation again next year. We are positioned to weather this for the next couple years without having staff go through this again,” Bucholz said.