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Federal funding cuts affect YKHC

Posted: October 7, 2013 - 12:01am

BETHEL — The Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corp. is feeling the pinch of federal funding cuts, and is looking at laying off workers and eliminating programs and vacant positions.

The corporation is the largest employer in the region, with 1,600 workers. KYHC’s payroll is about $80 million, but the corporation will be seeing $7.7 million in federal funding cuts for fiscal years 2013 and 2014, KYUK reported.

In response to the cuts, the corporation is laying off some workers and eliminating some vacancies in the system.

About half of the nearly 50 employees targeted for layoffs so far look like they can be transferred to some of the 200 current vacancies, according to KYHC officials. The layoffs were set to begin as early as Tuesday.

YKHC also plans to eliminate 44 vacant positions that are considered nonessential. It also has a eliminated a summer hiring program that often employed college students.

The corporation stands to lose almost $30 million in the next decade unless it becomes exempt by Congress, said YKHC president and CEO Gene Peltola.

“So, this is an annual process that we’re going to have to go through to be able to live within our means,” Peltola said.

Among the casualties of the current cuts is the home care program, which will be closed down. Peltola said one of the reasons why the home care program was targeted was that the corporation was losing a considerable amount of money on it.

The program helped families caring for needy individuals at home, allowing, for example, home care attendants to help with cleaning and dishes and laundry.

Peltola said officials knew there would be cuts but it wasn’t until late June that they learned the exact details. Administrators worked with the finance department and the board of directors to determine where the cuts would be.

Doctors’ pay is one area that the health corporation will be spending more money on. The board of directors decided to increase physician salaries by $1.2 million to help fix the increasing problem of keeping doctors.

The corporation has a savings account about $40 million from winnings of a lawsuit against the federal government over funding shortfalls. Peltola said, however, that money will not be used to get through the difficult times.

“Because they’re nonrecurring funds to cover recurring expenses within an organization,” he said. “I mean, you’re just prolonging the problem, if you do.”

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