ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A suburban St. Louis hospital chain plans to cut 125 jobs in the region and another 95 positions elsewhere in the Catholic health care system.
"We'll continue to see cuts. we'll continue to see them primarily in the urban core, primarily in rural areas, and primarily in provider that serve the mentally ill," said Rob Fruend, a representative with the St. Louis Regional Health Commission. "Those providers see patients who can't pay."
Mercy Health announced the layoffs on Tuesday as part of what it called “a response to economic and environmental changes in health care.” The company says the eliminated jobs represent less than one percent of the company’s 40,000 employees and don’t involve workers who treat patients.
"I think we are going to see our hospitals becoming more and more destabilized, our smaller hospitals and rural hospitals are most at risk," said SLU School of Law Professor Sidney Watson. "They have the least margins. They are in the economies that are most at risk. It's a scary time."
Mercy is the sixth largest Catholic health care system in the U.S. and operates 32 hospitals in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas.
The St. Louis Regional Health Commission says that reforming the medicaid program in Missouri may be needed, but if it happens medicaid needs to expand and, according to the St. Louis Regional Health Commission, "we need to do it quickly."