LRGH lays off 58

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — LRGHealthcare announced yesterday that it is laying off 58 full-time employees, including clinical, technical and managerial personnel, as one of several measures to reduce operating costs and improve financial performance amid the changing regulatory environment and economic conditions of the health care marketplace.

Seth Warren, president and chief operating officer of LRGHealthcare who announced his resignation earlier this month, said that layoffs represent less than 4 percent of the total payroll of the organization, which will be reduced from 1,585 to 1,527. He said that approximately a quarter of the layoffs will be at Franklin Regional Hospital and the balance at Lakes Region General Hospital.

In addition, Warren said that during the past several months another 80 positions have been eliminated through attrition. "We took great efforts to reduce staff through attrition in order to decrease the numbers losing their jobs," he said. "That being said," he continued, "any reduction of employees is not taken lightly. We are altering people's lives and for that we are truly sorry."

Cass Walker, vice president of administrative and support services, said that staffing has undergone review since January and a "position review committee" meets weekly to consider whether to fill any vacancies that arise as well as any requests for new positions or additional personnel.

The layoff followed an intensive review of of all aspects of operations throughout LRGHealthcare by Prism Healthcare Partners LTD, a consulting firm, which identified between $15 million and $21 million in both lower costs and higher revenues. Warren said that payroll represents close to 60 percent of operating costs at LRGHealthcare and added "we would like to run below 56 percent."

Warren said that the Affordable Care Act has led outpatient care to displace hospital admissions and reimbursement payments to reward efficient operations. At the same, expanding eligibility for Medicaid has increased the volume of patients. In other words, while the number of patients has grown, the length of their stay has shrunk.

"LRGHealthcare is at or below its target for shortening length of stay," he said. "But, with increased patient volumes coupled with higher costs and generally lower reimbursement than we historically received," he continued, "our challenge is to staff our campuses in line with these changes."

Warren stressed that the reduction of personnel will not impair the care of patients
He explained when the organization was staffed to meet maximum demand "we were sending employees home for lack of work." By what he called "staffing to volume," he said, "we can flex up or down by calling in per diem personnel to staff more efficiently and run more efficiently."

Moreover, Warren said that the hospitals are working closely with visiting nurse associations, nursing homes and other agencies as patients are leave the hospital for more appropriate settings.

"We are continuing to care for our patients after they are discharged," he said.

Without discounting the hardship to those who are losing their jobs, Walker pointed out that there is strong demand for health care workers. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is seeking to fill 471 positions and there are two dozen open positions at LRGHealthcare. She said that by laying off rather than reassigning employees, all could compete equally for positions for which they are qualified. She said that the human resources department will assist all employees affected by the layoff and work with the both the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security and the Department of Health and Human Services, which administers the Employee Assistance Program.

Warren said that with the restructuring underway LRGHealthcare will be "operating in the black and able to reinvest in the organization and be well prepared for whatever hits next."

City Council blesses dog park, Lezama family donating $100,000

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — There were 2,191 dogs registered in the city in 2015, one for every seven people, representing almost 14 percent of the bipedal population, and they may soon have a playground all to themselves.
The City Council this week gave its blessing to the proposal by Happy Tails Dog Park to construct fenced play areas for dogs and puppies in the South End of the city and authorized City Manager Scott Myers to negotiate a leasing agreement with the organization for the use of the property. The approval is contingent on securing $100,000 is donations to construct and maintain the park as well as approval of the project by the Planning Board.

Last month, Ginny Martin, president of Happy Tails Dog Park, told the council that a donation of $100,000 from the Lezama family will finance construction of the park and endow a fund for its maintenance and requested that the family's name be incorporated into the name of park.
The dog park would be sited on part of a 25-acre rectangular tract between the end of Spruce Street and Growtth Road, which is owned by the city. The city acquired the land in 1976 with a grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, established by Congress in 1965, which the restricts the property to recreational uses.
Happy Tails Dog Park proposes to lease two acres at the southeast end of the property. John Rokeh, of Rokeh Consulting LLC of Chichester, has prepared a plan for the park, which includes two abutting enclosures, each 78 feet by 130 feet, one for large dogs and another for small dogs, and a third separate enclosure, 20 feet by 60 feet, for puppies. The park would be reached from the end of Growtth Road, where a 20-foot gravel driveway would lead to a graveled parking lot with spaces for 19 vehicles. The park would not not be served by either water or electricity, and Martin expected the annual maintenance costs to fall between $1,500 and $2,000. The park, Martin said, would be managed, policed and maintained by members of Happy Trails Dog Park.

Original drape found as work begins on Colonial Theatre

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — While work is underway at the Colonial Theatre, "We still have a long way to go," said Mayor Ed Engler at the City Council meeting on Monday.

Engler explained that by demolishing and removing the partitions that divided the auditorium into five motion picture theaters and projection rooms, the space will be opened for the engineers and architects to assess what must be done to restore the venue to its original condition. He remarked that photographs taken during the demolition process have revealed the beauty of the auditorium and noted that the original drape or curtain was found hanging high above the stage.

This stage of the project is being undertaken by Bonnette, Page & Stone Corporation and supervised by Bob Ferguson, a veteran of many historic restorations, including the Gale Memorial Building that houses the Laconia Public Library, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Engler said that the $14.6 million financial package to fund the restoration itself remains to be assembled. He said that an essential component of the package will be $2 million in contributions from private benefactors, both corporations and individuals. He noted that the fundraising effort has begun and already made "substantial progress. We've still got a lot of money to raise, " the mayor continued, adding that a he expects a public fundraising campaign to begin early in May.

The financing for the project is scheduled to be in place by Dec. 1 and restoration of the theater to begin in January. Engler anticipated the work to take nine or ten months and looked forward to "cutting a ribbon" around Thanksgiving next year.