Boston Medical Center Cuts $61.5 million

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250 staff members at Boston Medical Center are losing their jobs or losing hours. The hospital is also putting a hold on 35% of planned capital projects and spending 14-million dollars less in departments throughout the hospital. In total, BMC is cutting $61.5 million in response to state budget cuts. Hospital President Elaine Ullian says patients will feel the effects.

"They’ll be longer waits for appointments. They’ll be fewer phones answered. We have the largest interpreter service in New England; we’re reducing that considerably. Every element of our institution will diminish the service and access it provides to patients at a time when our hospital has never been busier."

"Now is the time when that safety net is needed more than ever."

Mike Fadel with SEIU, 1999, is frustrated with the Patrick administration.

"We know that the state is under tremendous fiscal constraints, but there are hundreds and thousands of residents who are unemployed or underemployed and in need of the very services that Boston Medical Center provides."

Fadel is also worried about members who are losing jobs at BMC and about a warning from Ullian that more cuts are likely as the state budget tightens.

"I’m very worried about it and I just am hopeful that we can partner with the Governor and his staff to support essential services for a very large population, whom we serve. "

More than half of Boston Medical Center’s patients are low income. Ullian says BMC is reimbursed 64 cents on the dollar for patients with Medicaid coverage. This year she will dip into reserves to make up for lost special government payments that used to help cover the gap. Ullian is hoping that a federal stimulus package for states will include a temporary increase in the Medicaid rate. But states may not be required to spend that money on Medicaid. Secretary for Administration and Finance, Leslie Kirwan, isn’t making any promises.

"We are hopeful that to the extent that we get some additional federal aid, it will be flexible enough to help us deal with our current budget situation and avoid significant further cuts, given that we’ve already made some painful cuts in many areas of the budget."

The administration is working on another round of budget cuts and a spending plan for the next fiscal year that may make this year look generous, in comparison.

Martha Bebinger

This program aired on December 18, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.