Dotti McKnight is one of some 80 Dominican employees expected to be laid off in May. Photo by Chip Scheuer.
When Dotti McKnight left her job at the Shadowbrook restaurant in Capitola, she thought a commissary job at Dominican Hospital would be enough to support her and her husband. That was 2003.
Last month, McKnight received a notice warning her she will probably be laid off in May because of restructuring and job eliminations.
“I’m distressed,” McKnight says. “My whole life is just shaken up now. I don’t know what’s going to happen to me. I’m 60 years old. Over the past 28 years, these are the only two jobs I’ve had, so I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m really upset and worried about this.”
Many of the approximately 80 job eliminations are happening because of the closure of the Restorative Care Unit on Frederick Street. Such rehab facilities care for people recovering from strokes, traumas and serious illnesses. The hospital is also closing a physical therapy program and a prenatal clinic. Dominican will refer patients to other Monterey Bay facilities, including Dominican’s separate Acute Rehabilitation Center, which opened this past March.
Dominican Hospital administrators say they closed the rehab campus to comply with California’s seismic regulations, which lawmakers strengthened after the 1996 Northridge earthquake. Some have said Dominican has been trying to close the facility for years to save money.
Dominican Hospital makes a decent amount of cash for its parent company Dignity Health—or did a couple years ago anyway, with 2011 net income margins of 13 percent. That’s more than double that of other Dignity Health hospitals in California, and 4 percent higher than the average net income of hospitals.
In 2012, Dignity Health profits dropped 82 percent from the previous year. It’s unclear how hard Dominican was hit with losses. But the drop-off raises questions that Dominican might be covering for Dignity Health’s losses elsewhere in the company—not that anyone at Dominican is willing to discuss their budgets.
Dignity Health spokesperson Mike Lee says the hospital is doing what it can. “Dominican is making changes necessary to succeed in a reformed healthcare environment so we can continue to provide services needed in the community,” Lee wrote in a brief statement emailed to the Weekly.
Sean Whirley works for the SEIU, which represents McKnight, and says the hospital shouldn’t be cutting positions right now. “It’s hard to understand economic hardship being the basis for these layoffs given their profit margins,” says Whirley, who works in Los Angeles.
One nurse, who wished to remain anonymous, says it will be almost impossible finding such a good nursing job again in Santa Cruz County, and Dominican Hospital hasn’t been much help. “They could be a little more accommodating, helping to ease the blow and help us find work after Dominican,” he said. “It’s not like the factory closed, and they’re not making cars anymore. They could find jobs for us.”’
According to the 60-day notice McKnight received, her layoff could go into effect in late May. She says both the SEIU and Dominican have left her in the dark.
“I haven’t heard a word form human resources or the union,” McKnight says. “I’ve asked questions, and they keep referring me to each other.”
McKnight says she doesn’t know what she will do if she is laid off next month. She doesn’t know how she will support herself and her husband, who works part-time and doesn’t have any benefits. She doesn’t think she’ll be able to afford healthcare for herself or her husband, who’s 58 years old, until they each reach 65 and qualify for Medicare.
“I’m very, very worried,” she says. “It’s my livelihood, I’ve always had a job. Stability is very important to me. I’ve never been on welfare. I’ve never been on unemployment. I’ve always worked.”