Sturgis Hospital CEO defends jobs and service cuts

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An embattled hospital CEO faced the public for the first time Monday night after announcing massive job and service cuts.

Many feel the decision came as a shock, saying Sturgis Hospital CEO and President Robert LaBarge mishandled the process and wasn't transparent to employees and the community.

Kelli Glick, a staff nurse at Sturgis Hospital, is one of 60 employees impacted by cuts announced by the hospital last week. Glick says she felt blindsided by the cuts.

"How do we go from financial difficulty to making these dire cuts?" Glick said.

More than 500 people packed the gym at Eastwood Elementary School Monday night to demand answers from LaBarge, who defended the cuts.

"As painful as it is, it's better than not having a hospital at all," LaBarge told the crowd.

LaBarge answered questions funneled thru state Rep. Aaron Miller, who previously called for the CEO's resignation for lack of transparency.

"Why were staff members left in the dark about these staff changes and financial situations?" Miller asked LaBarge.

LaBarge replied by saying, "If I go back and do one thing differently, I would have made these changes months ago."

LaBarge said staff and service reductions at the hospital were necessary to keep it afloat. He said the hospital has tried to reduce costs and adapt to the continually changing health care industry.

"How do we keep the most healthcare here? We believe this is the best way to do that," he told the crowd.

Implementation of the reorganization plan began Monday and will take place over the next month. The Sturgis Hospital birthing center will close Dec. 31.

LaBarge said births at the hospital have dropped from 450 per year to 300. Many are concerned about how far the thousands who depend on the hospital will have to travel to receive care.

"I'll find a job, but am devastated my patients would have to travel so far for treatments," Glick said.

LaBarage says the board members have been exploring a sale of the hospital, but so far no buyers.

"If we don't have a partner, we don't have the resources to continue," LaBarge said.

Many at tonight's meeting feel some questions weren't answered.

"I think there's lots of layers left untouched. Time will tell," Sturgis resident Darcey Owen said.

Members of the Michigan Nurses Association and Miller helped host the town hall. Miller said he felt disappointed by the lack of transparency throughout the process, and said Monday's meeting didn't change how he felt.

During the meeting, LaBarge was asked if he would resign from his position. LaBarge said no, but would opening to change his pay, "If that's something the board wanted to do."

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