Clipboard: Boston Medical Center mulls major cut

Boston Medical Center is considering closing a portion of its campus and eliminating 85 beds to address state and federal budget cuts and to shift more resources to outpatient services, Robert Weisman writes in today’s Boston Globe.

“Boston Medical Center is looking at every way we can to make our hospital efficient,” chief executive Kate Walsh told Weisman. “Beds are the most expensive part of our operation. Going from 500 beds to 400 beds is a big decision for our hospital, and we have not made it yet. But we’re evaluating it as part of health care reform, which is going to require fewer patients in beds.”

It’s not clear how many of the hospital’s 4,500 jobs could be affected, but a spokesman for the union that represents nurses there said he is watching the situation closely.

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Reader “Entropic” commented that this could be the first wave of such changes, as the days when “health care was a sort of bomb shelter from the economy” may be ending. Some experts agree.

Weisman writes:

Ellen Lutch Bender, president of health care consultant Bender Strategies in Newton, said the move may be a harbinger of things to come at other Massachusetts hospitals.

“Boston Medical Center is doing what it needs to do to stay financially solvent in this challenging health care environment,” Bender said. “Hospitals are under huge financial pressure to do what they have done but do it with less resources. We’re going to see at many hospitals the possibility of moving beds and the possibility of staff reductions.”

After losing money for several years, Boston Medical posted a profit of $8.8 million in 2012, according to figures released last week by the Massachusetts Center for Health Information and Analysis.

But because it derives about three-quarters of its revenue from Medicaid and Medicare — the government insurance programs for low-income and older patients — the hospital is vulnerable to the deep federal and state budget cuts projected in coming years.

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