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Erlanger at Hutcheson is planning to lay off less than 4 percent of its 825 employees as part of budget cuts.


Erlanger at Hutcheson losses in the last six months

• $1,854,553 - July

• $1,797,162 - August

• $2,653,937 - September

• $1,619,602 - October

• $1,081,867 - November

• $894,354 - December

Source: Erlanger at Hutcheson

FORT OGLETHORPE - Erlanger at Hutcheson will be cutting its staff over the next 60 days in an attempt to cut costs and "right-size" the struggling North Georgia hospital.

CEO Roger Forgey said he did not have an exact number, but the cuts would be "less than 5 percent" of the 825 employees.

Hutcheson, which has been managed by Erlanger Health System since May, has lost millions over the last year, defaulted on a $35 million bond and laid off 75 employees in April.

While it has been losing about $1 million a month, Hutcheson recorded slightly better numbers in December with a loss of $894,354 and improved patient numbers. January numbers will be released next week.

Forgey, who took over the lead role at Hutcheson in January, said layoffs are a result of the hospital trying to move to a size that the community can support. The hospital is certified as a 176-bed acute-care facility, but the right size might be closer to 50 to 75 beds, Forgey said Thursday.

"The community needs you to have whatever services it will support and that is really what we are trying to get to," he said. "A true community hospital is one where you really don't want to leave the community for the types of services that we should be able to offer."

The hospital averaged about 21 patients a day from October through December, compared to 33 patients a day over the same time period in 2010.

The employee cuts will be made with a "surgical look" at which positions can be eliminated and will not affect clinical care, Forgey said, including overhead services and management positions.

In addition to its acute care, Hutcheson also runs a nursing home, numerous primary care clinics and other services. Cuts will be made in those facilities where needed, Forgey said.

According to Hutcheson spokeswoman Haley Johnson, many of the hospital's employees work in several facilities, so it's impossible to say how many employees work only in the acute-care facility.

In addition to layoffs, the hospital is looking at outsourcing some services and selling certain properties, Forgey said.

Erlanger hired Texas-based Community Hospital Consulting Inc. in June to look at ways to improve services and cut costs at Hutcheson. According to the contract, Erlanger is paying the consulting firm $480,000 over 12 months, plus "all reasonable out of pocket expenses."

Forgey said Hutcheson has made changes based on recommendations from Community Hospital and will continue to do so. But some changes also come from assessments he has made since he first began working closely with Hutcheson in October, he said.

The hospital is not only focused on cutting costs, it also wants to grow services, he said.

Hutcheson recently implemented a coverage agreement with the Dalton Surgical Group, four doctors who will provide 24/7 coverage for emergency surgery care at the Fort Oglethorpe facility.

"We are very motivated to rebuild the community hospital base that we've had," Forgey said. "We've got three counties and a board that wants this to be successful. This thing is coming back."