About 10 employees at Renown Medical Center have been laid off in the past week, and there's a fear more layoffs will come. Hospital staff say it's part of a continuous evaluation of programs and services throughout the year, and a way to help keep health care costs manageable.
Hospital staff is being extremely tight-lipped about which positions were eliminated and why. They also would not reveal an exact number of layoffs.
While the exact reason for the Renown layoffs is unclear, one thing is certain. Nevada's population is aging and growing, so the need for medical care and facilities is as strong as ever.
Dr. John Packham, a health services researcher with University of Nevada's School of Medicine says even in the toughest economic times, health care workers are usually pretty safe.
"Health care is for the most part immune from those type of economic pressures, in that people don't delay getting sick during an economic downturn. They follow the same patterns. People are actually more stressed during an economic downturn," said Packham.
He says there may even be an increase in people seeking medical attention, so why would a hospital ever need to cut its staff?
"Hospitals are like any other business and in a large, metropolitan area like Reno and Sparks, they compete with other facilities so there is always competing pressure affecting them, like any other business. That type of competition during a recession or economic downturn is even more brutal," added Packham.
In the past, local hospitals that experienced layoffs, did so around the holidays, such as the Northern Nevada Medical Center in Sparks did in 2005. They laid off 22 people that Christmas.
Saint Mary's Hospital had to lay off almost 100 employees that same year--citing economic concerns--although in either case, patient care was not affected.
Packham explained: "Usually hospitals locally, when they lay off people, they do it on the administrative side or non-clinical. Bedside nurses, look in the paper, there are a dozen adds for every hospital every Sunday. That demand is pretty robust."
A Renown spokesman says the hospital is middle of its budget cycle and management has no idea how many people will be impacted through these ongoing evaluations.
He says sometimes individual departments have to make tough choices, but at the same time, they are still adding new programs and services. In fact, currently, Renown is advertising for 300 open positions.