Jacksonville Memorial Hospital Processes Staff Losses

By Julie Gerke

The staff and volunteers of Jacksonville Memorial Hospital continue to process the loss of coworkers and some services, the hospital president and CEO says, but are starting to focus on how the hospital will operate now and going forward.

On Aug. 7, Memorial Health — the parent of JMH — laid off employees and closed units at its hospitals in Springfield, Decatur, Jacksonville, Lincoln and Taylorville.

In Jacksonville, cuts included the award-winning Transitional Care Unit and an unspecified number of employees. In addition, Memorial Home Medical Supply stores in Jacksonville, Lincoln and Decatur will close Sept. 8, with retail operations consolidated into the Springfield store at 644 N. Second St.

Memorial Health said the system-wide cuts affected about 20% of the system’s administrative team, and 5% of the system’s salaries and benefits.

As for the supply store closing, Memorial Health spokeswoman Angie Muhs said customers can order supplies through Memorial and they will be shipped from the Springfield location.

The change will “better meet the community’s needs, as consumers increasingly prefer ordering items for home delivery instead of visiting a retail location.”

JMH President and CEO Trevor Huffman, who has been with the local hospital for 25 years, met with The Source for a discussion about the last couple of weeks and how the hospital, its leaders and staff will move forward:

“Our first focus has been on those affected, and then our remaining colleagues,” Huffman said during a talk in his office attended by Muhs. The hospital system ends its fiscal year in September, and local hospital leaders last week were given an outline of measures of success for the 2024 fiscal year, Huffman said. The measures have been approved by the health system’s board and are specific to JMH.

In a separate discussion prior to the meeting, Muhs declined to provide specifics on a number of questions about finances, personnel and strategic decisions, pointing instead to the Aug. 8 statement.

With the TCU closure, JMH is working with other local providers that offer a place for those who need rehabilitation services or a little extra time to regain strength before returning home or to another facility. The TCU, slated to fully close at the end of September, has separate patient rooms, communal dining and rehabilitation services.

Not every hospital patient who needed such services was moved to TCU. “It was always patients’ choice,” Huffman said of where patients would go for such services.

Last week, all JMH leaders were invited to an in-person group meeting or to use an online meeting format where they could listen to Huffman’s presentation and ask questions.

“We all lost friends, colleagues. There’s a point of grief with that, with any loss. How are we going to move forward, what are we going to do now. What will the future hold? … We’re still going through the processes of loss [but our] focus will be on how we’re going to operate now and going forward.”

The job cuts were made with an eye toward minimum impact on the front lines, like the emergency room, intensive care unit and obstetrics. Patients “shouldn’t see any changes in those,” he said.

He was extremely troubled, he said, by misinformation — particularly on social media — that the layoffs meant the hospital would close. “For the people affected, there was significant impact,” Huffman said, but, “Overall for the core service line, there was minimum impact. People should still feel comfortable to come out here [for help].”

Huffman said he’s always had an open-door policy and continues with that, and much prefers to speak with staff or others rather than have someone be misinformed. “We always make sure the [local] leaders have the information so if someone is uncomfortable coming to me, the leaders have the information … about how we got to this point, why decisions were made and how we’ll move forward.”

He and Muhs said staff members have been encouraged to share ideas on how to refine processes. “We’re open to that and encouraging,” she said.

Last year, JMH was restructured as a “critical access hospital” (as are the Lincoln and Taylorville sites), defined as a medical center that provides healthcare services to rural, often underserved communities. Usually, those areas have fewer people but a higher number of underinsured or uninsured people and older adults.

Among other qualifications, the site must be more than 35 miles from any other hospital, maintain no more than 25 inpatient beds and have stays of no longer than 96 hours.

“Our core business is as a hospital; that’s what our focus has to be moving forward,” Huffman said. Decisions or changes “kind of trickle down from there. We’re not asking [staff] to do more with less staff” but to focus on the core business.

Memorial Health also offers primary and specialty care, urgent care clinics, behavioral health and other services.

He said ancillary services — such as lab testing, imaging and physical therapy — are being maintained but the hospital remains in a “stabilization” period following the COVID pandemic. Decisions are made based on patient need and volume, staffing shortages and inflation costs, among others.

The hospital is maintaining close relationships with academic programs at Illinois College, Lincoln Land Community College and others, so “we can work on growing our own colleagues … creating partnerships and working forward,” Huffman said.

JMH also continues to hire clerks, service specialists, techs, nurses and others, according to jobs listed on its own website and various job boards.

“The hospital is one of the largest employers in the region,” said Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation REDC President Kristin Jamison. “We want to help out in any way possible. One of those ways is a great employment opportunities page on our website. We’ve reached out to a lot of employers in our area so they send me their openings. … We’re trying to help out as best we can.”

President Lisa Musch of the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce said they also maintain a job board.

Jamison said there are “hundreds” of jobs available among regional manufacturers. “It’s not the same space but we know we’ve got work for people. We’re facilitating conversations with managers and [human relations] directors just to let folks know about the people here.”

Jamison, who is campaign co-chairwoman for Prairieland United Way, added that everyone needs to have basic needs covered for the community to be strong. “We’re lucky to be in a place where people want to contribute and understand [United Way’s] value. If everyone is lifted up, it lifts up the entire community.”

At the hospital, Huffman said, “Our mission is to make sure we’re meeting our community’s needs — that’s what our focus is moving forward. That was part of [the reason for] our workforce reduction, so we can continue doing that in the future. … Meeting the needs of our community [will] always be our focus.”

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