Blackhawk cuts Rockdale personnel '15 to 20 percent'
Blackhawk Healthcare cut its Rockdale staff by about one-fifth last week in a cost-cutting move management said enhanced the company’s stability.
Phil Ellett, Blackhawk chief executive officer, said announcements were made Wednesday afternoon, July 28, to employees at Richards Memorial Hospital, Little River Medical Clinic and Family Care Center.
“It was a very heart wrenching scene,” Ellett said. “We understand that we are affecting people’s lives.”
Healthcare has become a major industry in the Rockdale area. Blackhawk said it employs “just under 200” in Rockdale.
The company would not release exact layoff figures, but Ellett termed the layoffs “large.”
Ellett said the layoffs had nothing to do with Rockdale, or the economic situation produced by the 2008 Alcoa smelter shutdown.
“These were company-wide, same 15 to 20 percent,” he said. “They also occurred at our Bastrop hospital and at Blackhawk corporate.”
“Our other hospital, at Mangum, Oklahoma, is so tiny it really doesn’t compare,” he said.
Ellett said the Rockdale layoffs were “across the board” and didn’t target specific departments.
Are more cuts planned?
“I told the people last Wednesday that I would never say never but right now we think this is about there we need to be.”
“Honestly, we don’t want to do this again,” he said. “
“It’s no secret we’ve been cutting costs as a corporation since January,” Ellett said.
At that point there was a corporate reorganization.
Ellett said Blackhawk recognizes its impact on Rockdale. “We want to provide the best health care we can and be a good force, a positive force for this community.”
“This is a reaction to the current business environment, not just in Rockdale but everywhere,” he said.
Last week’s layoffs should not affect Blackhawk’s announced plans to probably construct a new clinic facility in Rockdale.
“We’re continuing to look at that,” he said. “We want to know what kind of facility will serve Rockdale best.”
Originally, Blackhawk had been studying either a new hospital or a renovation of Richards Memorial.
Ellett said a search continues for a new chief executive officer for Richards Memorial Hospital to replace Jeremy Riney.
“We are conducting telephone interviews,” he said. “In the interim we have people from the corporate office filling in here.”
Blackhawk assumed management of the formerly financially-troubled hospital in 2006. It is currently in the process of purchasing the facility.
The hospital is no longer supported by either an ad valorem property tax or a sales tax.