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Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 1:46 a.m.
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157 positions going away, hospital says

By Jack Weatherly

This article was published June 27, 2014 at 3:12 a.m.

CHI St. Vincent announced Thursday afternoon that it is eliminating 157 positions as a result of the acquisition earlier this year of Mercy Hot Springs hospital.

Up to 91 of the positions are currently filled, and the balance is vacant and will not be filled, CHI St. Vincent President and CEO Peter Banko said in an interview.

Those vacancies occurred in the past few months when employees got jobs elsewhere or were terminated for poor performance, Banko said.

Seventy-four employees who are losing their jobs are in Hot Springs; 14 are at facilities in Little Rock and North Little Rock; and three are in Morrilton. CHI St. Vincent has about 4,500 employees.

Some of the employees whose jobs are being cut have been offered positions elsewhere in the system, Banko said.

The jobs are in "mainly nonpatient-care support areas" such as human resources, quality review, maintenance and marketing, plus a few clinical areas and some nurses, he said.

"Today is a very difficult day for our ministry, and our first task is to support those co-workers that are leaving us because our decisions are impacting good people and their families," Banko said in a news release.

Banko said the former Mercy Hot Springs hospital had been losing money in recent years and that the reduction in workforce will save about $9 million a year.

He said there will be no more cuts associated with the acquisition of Mercy.

The former St. Vincent Health System took on a new name, CHI St. Vincent, on June 8 to reflect that it is held by Catholic Health Initiatives of Denver, which owns 89 hospitals in 18 states.

Catholic Health announced May 1 that it had bought Little Rock-based QualChoice Health, Arkansas' second-largest health insurer.

Catholic Health succeeded in acquiring Mercy Hot Springs after the private, Tennessee-based, for-profit chain Capella Healthcare failed to acquire it in 2013 when its attempt was opposed by Bishop Anthony Taylor of the Little Rock Diocese as well as the Federal Trade Commission.

Taylor expressed misgivings about Capella's commitment to serving the poor and to not perform elective abortions after agreeing not to in the first five years after the acquisition.

The federal agency said it would fight the Capella deal because it would threaten competition. Capella owns the National Park Medical Center in Hot Springs.

"While today is a tough day, I have never been more optimistic about the great future that lies ahead for CHI St. Vincent," Banko said in the release. "And we have firmly positioned ourselves to be one of the two (or three) prominent health systems that chart a new course for health care in Arkansas."

The acquisition of Mercy Hot Springs is expected to give CHI St. Vincent $700 million in annual revenue, putting it on a scale with Baptist Health, which is the second-largest in the state after the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Medical Center.

Banko said on April 1 that the Hot Springs hospital would boost CHI St. Vincent revenue by $250 million.

Efforts to contact Paul Cunningham, executive vice president of the Arkansas Hospital Association, were unsuccessful.

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