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Editorial: BFMC changes

Even if Baystate Franklin Medical Center wasn’t involved in prolonged — and at times contentious — contract negotiations with the nurses’ union, these would still be tough times for the hospital.

Despite providing essential medical care on many different levels, small medical centers in rural areas face hurdles that don’t exist in the same scope as in their more urban counterparts. For example, they can have a hard time attracting and hiring young doctors, whether general practitioners or specialists. They must meet the challenges that changes in health care and health care coverage pose, while keeping a close eye on the costs associated with implementing services that are aimed at improving what they do, all paid for by a patient population that can vary wildly.

Like it or not, Baystate Franklin Medical Center, its staff and the community it serves are all caught in a shifting landscape when it comes to health care in the United States.

The public saw a real result of those changes in BFMC’s recent announcement that as many as 10 nurses and one manager would be losing their jobs, with nine of those layoffs likely to come from the hospital’s medical-surgical nursing staff.

And there are other moves planned that will likely mean shifts in jobs or responsibilities.

Hospital officials say that what precipitated the move is a reduction in the number of hours associated with the typical patient’s hospital stay. They say that from just last year, the average medical-surgical inpatient stay has dropped from 3.4 to 2.4 days. Perhaps more significant, are the numbers associated with average number of medical-surgical patients who are in the hospital on a given day. This number, according to the hospital, has gone from 28.5 patients to 21.3.

It is true that changes in care as well as the length of stay covered by insurance has been shortening hospital stays both here and elsewhere in the country. And that, in turn, has had an impact on staffing needs. Therefore, while nobody wants to see people lose their job, there has to be a recognition of the economics of the situation, as unpleasant as they may be.

And it is particularly unpleasant because people losing jobs at BFMC are relatives, friends and neighbors.

What no one wants is for these job losses to be a part of blueprint that reduces what the hospital is able to provide here. That concern — that there’s a push to move services and therefore patients to Springfield — is getting a greater voice in the community, both among the nurses and the public at large.

The hospital says it’s not the case and that residents of the area can trust that those running BFMC are as invested in the facility as the rest of the county is.

These are tough times for anyone in the health care business — keeping your footing amidst swirling changes and challenges is extremely challenging.

We can only urge BFMC to do what’s best, and keep a close eye on future changes.

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