Georgetown University Hospital officials announced yesterday that 71 employes are losing their jobs because of budget cutbacks that officials blamed on new restrictions in Medicare and Medicaid and a decrease in the average length of stay of patients.
Hospital officials yesterday described the employes to be laid off as "support staff," but declined to identify them or the departments where they work until all the employes are notified.
Hospital administrator Charles M. O'Brien said that none of the employes are doctors or nurses.
O'Brien said the layoffs were determined by seniority, and that the last day of work for those affected will be Jan. 24.
The 71 workers constitute approximately 3.4 percent of the 2,100 employes at Georgetown University Hospital.
A Georgetown spokesman said the university will attempt to find other positions within the institution for some of the employes, and will help others find jobs. The layoffs are largely the result of anticipated losses of $1.7 million this fiscal year in reimbursement money from the Medicare and Medicaid programs, O'Brien said.
The District's Department of Human Services has announced changes in the Medicaid program, expected to go into effect in two weeks, in which the District will not reimburse hospitals for patients' hospital stays more than a day before surgery.
Other changes include restricting the types of illness that Medicaid will cover for patients who enter a hospital over a weekend. Officials say that is a time when many patients enter the hospital unnecessarily.
In addition, the changes in the reimbursement formula of the federally financed Medicare program will reduce payments to the hospital, O'Brien said. One of the most significant of these changes restricts the amount of money that Medicare will pay per patient each day.
O'Brien said hospital officials do not know why the hospital stays are shorter, but said it is a "distinct possibility" that the trend is caused by unemployed people without medical insurance deciding to forgo surgery.
The union that represents many of those to be laid off, the National Union of Hospital & Health Care Employees District 1199E, could not be reached for comment.
Officials at Washington Hospital Center, the city's largest private hospital, are studying the impact of the recent Medicare and Medicaid restrictions, according to Donna Arbogast, a hospital spokeswoman. "So far, we haven't seen the need to react as drastically as Georgetown," she said. Officials at George Washington University Hospital could not be reached for comment yesterday.