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Kaleida responding to union’s job cut claims

Posted at 5:49 PM, Dec 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-16 17:49:33-05

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — A new response to those potentially looming job cuts at Kaleida Health.

A union leader is speaking out against Kaleida insisting it is putting
96 Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) jobs at Buffalo General Medical Center on the chopping block.

buff general.jpg
Outside Buffalo General Medical Center.

“It would be a horrible, horrible pay cut for them,” Michele Murray responded.

Murray serves as area vice president of CWA Local1168. She says Kaleida told more than 100-workers there would be changes to their positions.

Among them, 96-CMA’s would see their jobs turned into Personal Care Aides or PCA’s. They can re-apply for those positions.

But the union says that could mean a more than $9,000 pay cut.

“It’s almost like Kaleida has that carrot over their head. They don’t know what to do,” remarked Murray.

The union says the CMA’s provide important care Buffalo General to patients in the intensive care unit, often acting as the eyes and ears for registered nurses. They say without them, patient care could be in jeopardy.

“It’s going to be difficult to train somebody off the street, to learn how to take care of these very acutely ill patients,” Murray said.

But Kaleida says these are job changes, not job cuts. Kaleida declined an on-camera interview, however, Chief of Staff Mike Hughes issued a written response.

Michael P. Hughes, Chief of Staff, Kaleida Health

He says they’re waiting for “official response from union leadership” to its job proposal.

Hughes also stated Kaleida has “made it very clear to the union leadership that in places like the emergency room, outpatient surgery, our clinics, that the certified medical assistant position is still utilized and needed.”

"Hospitals and healthcare systems like Kaleida Health are in the midst of enormous disruption. This is primarily driven by reimbursement challenges, market dynamics and continued cuts by the State and Federal government, upwards of $30 million for us to date. Thus, our ability to take care of patients and deliver world-class care is under attack.

“Change is always difficult in health care and hospital operations. But - we have a responsibility to the organization and an obligation to our community to be sustainable well into the future. That said, we will continue to run the organization based on where health care is going, not where it is today or where it was yesterday. This includes right-sizing programs, eliminating duplicative services that we offer, cutting management positions, reducing physician fees, eliminating vacant jobs, expense reductions and more.

“As for the certified medical assistant issue, we await an official response from union leadership as they 20 days to respond to the job action that we presented. To date, they have not responded to our proposal. What we have proposed is not a complete elimination of the role or position. Rather, creating more personal care type positions, which we need on our inpatient units. We have made it very clear to union leadership that in places like the emergency room, outpatient surgery, our clinics, that the certified medical assistant position is still utilized and needed. On our inpatient units, where we already have a unit secretary, we don’t need to duplicate job functions or responsibilities. So the union leadership position and public statements on this issue are not only inaccurate and disingenuous, but premature at this time.”

Kaleida Health CEO to leave at end of 2020
Kaleida CEO Jody Lomeo.

A CMA forwarded an email to 7 Eyewitness News from Kaleida CEO Jody Lomeo.

In the email Lomeo warns of "significant changes" in in their department, pointing to "nearly $30-million in state and federal reimbursement cuts for 2019-2020."

The also blames Medicare and Medicaid services cuts to hospitals.

“Of course, there are issues with reimbursement in New York State – there is absolutely no denying that,” Murray responded.

The union leader points to a 2017 Business First listing the pay of top health care CEO's in the area. Lomeo earns more than $2-million.

“Don’t take away money from the bedside. Those patients need it the most,” Murray declared.

The union says some job options are scheduled to begin as early as this Friday.

Outside Kaledia's Buffalo General Medical Center.

The following information was provided by Kaledia in it's response to this story:

· Certified Medical Assistants are trained in both clinical and administrative work. In a clinical environment, certified medical assistants have responsibilities in both examining patients and in office/administrative duties.

· Personal Care Assistants work directly with patients and help with tasks such as bathing, dressing, taking patient vitals (BP, blood pressure), and other supportive roles. They have no administrative duties or responsibilities.

· In this case, the individuals involved are working on our inpatient units but solely performing clinical duties, despite their title or training.

o They are not performing clerical work because it is performed already by inpatient unit secretaries.

Financial challenges Kaleida Health is facing:
· Kaleida Health has been negatively impacted by nearly $30 million in State and Federal reimbursement cuts for 2019-2020. These government related cuts are expected to grow significantly in 2020:

o New York State is expected to further cut hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and health organizations in the coming weeks, after announcing that they are facing a $6.1 billion deficit. Cuts will come in a number of reimbursement areas that impact us.

o On the Federal side, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) continues to cut hospitals that serve a high Medicaid and uninsured population, resulting in a $12 million reduction to the organization.

o The Visiting Nursing Association is facing a multi-million cut to its reimbursement from New York State for its managed long-term care program.

· Rate impacts (labor increases, increased pension expense, health insurance, workers compensation, medical malpractice increases, etc.) will total more than $40 million in year-over-year increases to Kaleida Health in 2020.

· Market dynamics that are beyond our control that we continue to manage. This includes supplies (pharmaceutical costs) and other expenses continuing to outpace reimbursement and revenue.

· Changes in the delivery system overall: There continues to be a very rapid pace of inpatient visits moving to outpatient setting. In addition, there is a sharp growth of observation cases in the inpatient setting, resulting in lower reimbursement.

· Denials from both commercial and public payers. About one in every 10 submitted claims are being denied based on various circumstances. This is a multi-million dollar issue that we are addressing.