Changing Health Care Landscape Forces ‘Realignment’ at Kalispell Hospital

Kalispell Regional Healthcare expects to lose more than $6 million this year due to Medicaid cuts; declines to say exactly how many employees have been let go

By Justin Franz
Nurses work in the intermediate care unit at Kalispell Regional Medical Center. Beacon file photo

A number of employees have lost their jobs at Kalispell Regional Healthcare in recent weeks as the hospital undergoes a “realignment” in response to Medicaid cuts and the “uncertainty of the health care landscape.”

Rumors have been circulating in recent days about layoffs at the Kalispell hospital, but Director of Communications and Marketing Mellody Sharpton said the speculation is overstated and that “considerably less than 1 percent of individuals’ employment status has been impacted by this realignment within our internal infrastructure.”

Sharpton declined to say exactly how many employees have left the hospital. KRH employs more than 4,000 people in Northwest Montana. No one involved with direct patient care has been impacted by the cuts.

Employees impacted by the job reductions will be able to apply for other positions within the company when possible, Sharpton said.

“Our HR team has worked with those impacted to support them during this transition,” she added.

Sharpton said it was “possible” that additional staffing cuts were on the horizon.

Earlier this week, the Daily Inter Lake reported that three prominent executives have left the hospital or announced their retirement in recent weeks. Chief Financial Officer Charles Pearce resigned in March; Chief Nursing Officer Karen Lee announced she was retiring; and Dr. Nicholas Costrini left his position as program director of the Digestive Health Institute.

Sharpton said the recent changes were spurred by uncertainty in the health care landscape, specifically cuts to Medicaid reimbursements from the government. Last year, the state legislature was forced to trim $227 million from the budget, and some of the most drastic cuts were to health care. Sharpton said the hospital expected to lose $6.6 million this year because of the cuts.

“Change is necessary to help us prepare for and weather these challenges,” Sharpton said. “Challenges inspire opportunities to rethink the way we operate, optimize our resources, and redefine efficient processes and procedures. All successful organizations are in a constant state of evolution, adapting to the demands of their market and the changes in their industries.”

KRH has expanded dramatically in recent years in an effort to establish itself as a regional medical center. The hospital is spending $14 million on a remodel that will expand its Emergency Department from 8,000 square feet to 37,000 square feet. It is also opening a $13 million Digestive Health Institute this fall. The most ambitious project is the $40 million Montana Children’s Medical Center, a 190,000-square-foot pediatric center that will be completed by spring 2019. Sharpton said the recent cuts would not impact those ongoing projects.