SALEM — North Shore Medical Center has notified approximately 160 employees of “job elimination or transition,” according to hospital officials.

The cuts took place over the last several days at Salem Hospital and Union Hospital in Lynn and affected workers in many departments, including nurses and service workers, said Filaine Deronnette of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.

“It’s just really difficult right now,” Deronnette said. “There is a need for a lot more collaboration and commitment on the impact not only on the hospital but in the community.”

Deronnette said it is unknown exactly how many workers will lose jobs because of contractual rights that allow some employees to take other positions within the company.

Hospital spokeswoman Laura Fleming said most of the reductions came by consolidating administrative, support and management functions. She said a “very small number” of nurses volunteered to take a severance package, “but no direct bedside nurses were involuntarily impacted.”

The layoffs and job changes were expected after hospital officials notified employees on Feb. 15 of a plan to lay off as many as 200 workers and cut the budget by $45 million.

Deronnette said she did not know if more layoffs are coming. North Shore Medical Center is planning to close Union Hospital and consolidate services in Salem.

“There is a consolidation that is going to happen,” she said. “We don’t know (about more layoffs), and quite honestly there’s a great need to be talking.”

State Rep. Paul Tucker of Salem said he and other public officials, including Mayor Kim Driscoll and state Sen. Joan Lovely, were scheduled to meet with hospital officials Thursday night to discuss the layoffs.

Tucker said many of the affected workers are older and will need assistance in finding new jobs.

“The only thing we can do from an elected officials standpoint is make sure we create the opportunities and support those opportunities,” he said.

Dr. Gregg Meyer, North Shore Medical Center’s interim president, said in a statement that the changes are “among the most difficult we make because they affect people we care about.”

“We value each of these colleagues and friends and are grateful for their extraordinary service to NSMC,” he said. “These changes will, however, help NSMC to become a more efficient and financially sustainable organization and enable us to continue to provide extraordinary, innovative care to our patients and their families.”

In a letter to employees in February, Meyer said the organization lost $36 million in 2015 and $48 million in 2016 and is on track to lose even more money in 2017 unless changes are made. 

Mary Sarris, executive director of the North Shore Workforce Investment Board, said jobs in the healthcare field are “relatively plentiful right now.”

“It is an unpleasant thing to have to go through,” she said. “I know a lot of them are very long-term employees. I’m just trying to look on the good side of things. The transition may be relatively smooth for a lot of people.”

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.

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