Texas hospital cutting almost half its staff, several services

St. Mark's Medical Center in La Grange, Texas, is cutting nearly half its staff and various services as it looks to survive amid significant financial challenges.

Sixty-four of the hospital's 144 employees are being let go — including 58 full-time and six part-time employees — as St. Mark's aims to transition to a Rural Emergency Hospital, according to The Fayette County Record

Becker's has reached out to St. Mark's for comment on the layoffs. 

On Feb. 13, the board voted unanimously to pursue the REH designation to remain open and continue providing select services to the community. 

To qualify for the designation, inpatient services may not be offered and 24/7 emergency services must be maintained to assess, stabilize and transfer patients to other facilities for more advanced care. Certain outpatient services may be provided, and hospitals approved for the designation receive increased reimbursement for relevant services in addition to a monthly facility payment from Medicare. 

As of Feb. 18, St. Mark's only offers 24/7 emergency medical services, patient observation and select outpatient services, the hospital said in a news release. It has cut several services, including inpatient and surgical services, post-acute skilled rehab care, its orthopedic clinic, speech therapy and ambulatory care.

Services it is continuing to provide include labs, imaging, mammography, nuclear medicine, pharmacy, physical and occupational therapy, respiratory therapy, cardiac rehabilitation and wound care.

"For the decade that I have served on St. Mark's board, we have struggled to make ends meet, including considering bankruptcy on more than one occasion," board chair Dudley Piland said in the release. "We could have faced closure had it not been for COVID-related funding and an agreement with our mortgage lender to pay interest only — and not the principal — since February 2020."

St. Mark's staff and contract labor costs increased by 31 percent compared to pre-COVID labor costs, while supplies and medicine costs have also risen due to inflation, according to president and CEO Mark Kimball. 

"Factor in reduced patient volumes and uncompensated care to the equation, and you have an insurmountable situation," Mr. Kimball said. "Our board and leadership team have exhausted every other financial avenue — from cost cutting to partnering with a hospital system or a full-on sale, as well as seeking funding from our state and local governments to remain open."

St. Mark's said it is one of the first hospitals in Texas to pursue the REH designation.

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