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St. Joseph Health to lay off 37 hospital workers in Sonoma County

St. Joseph Health will lay off 37 workers at its Sonoma County hospitals, part of a restructuring plan announced Wednesday to save $15 million over the next year in response to shrinking revenues under Obamacare.

The staff reductions, which affect 26 employees at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and 11 employees at Petaluma Valley Hospital, will save $3 million annually.

"This is one of the hardest things I've done in my career," said Todd Salnas, president of St. Joseph Health in Sonoma County.

Salnas said the move was necessary in light of declining reimbursements and an increasingly competitive marketplace where "everyone is trying to reduce the cost of health care."

St. Joseph Health leaders initiated numerous expense-cutting and revenue-generating strategies this spring and summer before turning to staff reductions, he said. Salnas would not specify what type of hospital workers were affected by the job cuts.

Wednesday's announcement was made amid ongoing and often confrontational labor negotiations with Memorial Hospital's Staff Nurses Association, which represents nearly 650 nurses in Santa Rosa.

Kery Poteracke, a 37-year Memorial Hospital nurse who is part of the negotiating team, said several nurses in specialty areas were losing their jobs as part of the staff reductions.

"We're wondering how they're going to get that work done," Poteracke said, adding that the nurses union was scheduled to meet with hospital administrators Wednesday afternoon regarding ongoing negotiations.

Hospital officials would not say exactly how many nurses are being let go, but did say nurses would be impacted. The hospital began notifying employees Monday.

In a statement, Salnas said that affected employees include "long-serving, dedicated staff who've cared for our patients and community for years."

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