Intermountain Healthcare plans to reduce staff at its former flagship medical center, LDS Hospital, by 150 positions, after patient volumes failed to live up to the expectations projected when Intermountain reduced the hospital's size last fall and opened a new flagship hospital in Murray.

The staff will be reduced from 1,570 full-time equivalent positions to 1,420 by Sept. 1, LDS Hospital chief executive Mikelle Moore said in an employee newsletter Thursday. The aim is to achieve the reductions through attrition and reassigning employees to other Intermountain Healthcare facilities.

"Our goal is to have zero lay-offs," Moore said. "There are currently almost 400 open positions within Inter-

mountain between Provo and Ogden, which illustrates why we're confident that all of the people whose positions are affected at LDS will be able to find a suitable position within Intermountain Healthcare."

Overall patient volumes are 12 percent less than projected, the newsletter said. The staffing model was built on higher patient volumes than the number that actually came into the hospital, and the hospital is operating at a loss, which is "not sustainable over the long-term."

The staff-per-patient ratio is high compared to other Intermountain facilities and national data.

"Continuing this current level of staffing would compromise the ability to deliver the best possible care for the lowest appropriate cost, which is a key component of our mission," the newsletter said.

LDS Hospital used to be the flagship hospital for Intermountain and the largest hospital in Utah, with 467 "equipped beds," ready for patients, meaning they have monitors and other basic equipment, Moore said in an interview Thursday.

But on Oct. 29, a new and more modern hospital, the Intermountain Medical Center, opened in Murray with 428 equipped beds. As a result, LDS Hospital reduced its number of equipped beds to 217.

At 6 a.m. Thursday, there were 160 inpatients at LDS Hospital, Moore said.

In the months before the Intermountain Medical Center opened, LDS Hospital's emergency department treated an average of 104 patients a day, Moore said. In the weeks after the new hospital opened, that number dropped to an average of 73 patients a day.

"As we look at the last six weeks or so, we're (treating) 86 patients a day," Moore said. "Our projections were to be 91 patients a day."

Moore has asked every department to "look at processes, look at what things they think they can change, given we're facing this challenge. And they're coming back to us with the solutions. We don't know which positions are affected yet."

Employees will know by June 2 if their jobs will be impacted by the changes.

In the months immediately following the opening of the Intermountain Medical Center, LDS Hospital went through a "transition" period in which numbers of patients weren't yet stabilized.

"We go through these transition periods as volumes fluctuate," Intermountain spokesman Jess Gomez said.

Intermountain, which operates as a nonprofit organization, is the largest private employer in Utah with about 30,000 employees, Gomez said.

Another hospital along the Wasatch Front is opening in 2009 in Riverton, and there may be another transition period within the hospital system.

"So we're going through a transition period when we're trying to align all those job opportunities together," Gomez said.

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