Albany Med announces rebranding for its hospitals, following layoffs

Leaders at several local hospitals gathered Monday morning to announce a change in branding.

Just days after announcing record losses and layoffs, streamlining services and saving money
is front and center at Albany Med Health System.

The rebrand includes Albany Medical Center, Columbia Memorial Health, Glens Falls Hospital and Saratoga Hospital, now to be under the same umbrella with the same Albany Med Health System logo and slogan, “with you for everything.” A central patient records system and online portal will make it easier for doctors and patients to see medical information.

Staffing is the biggest challenge Albany Med’s CEO Dr. Dennis McKenna says they have right now. They say the changes create a better connection among hospitals.

Albany Med was hit with a round of layoffs last week, affecting about three dozen mostly non-clinical jobs. Dr. McKenna is blaming unprecedented financial losses, partly on the rising costs of staffing agencies that employ traveling nurses.

McKenna says the biggest challenge is finding staff nurses. Hiring agency nurses is expensive, so Albany Med and its partners will grow their own nurses—developing an internal agency.

“Individuals who are working for the staffing agencies are being paid more than a nurse who’s working here in the hospital. In our own staffing agency, our own staffing alliance, there would also be a premium that those nurses would be paid,” McKenna said.

But the head of Albany Med’s nurses union Tonia Bazel tells NewsChannel 13 she believes the nursing shortage is manufactured, and that the hospital prefers agency nurses who don’t get benefits.  

“Over the 30 years that I’ve been in the care industry, we’ve always been told there’s a shortage and therefore the hospitals don’t have the staff to capacity. Hospitals for many, many many years would rather do outsourcing so they don’t have to do you know pensions and medical insurance,” she said.

Albany Medical Center reports that it and its partners received $100 million in federal COVID-19 relief. But the hospital says more than two thirds of that went to increasing base pay for staff and to pay for the skyrocketing cost of hiring agency nurses, which has jumped more than 200% since the start of the pandemic.  

Dr. McKenna says Albany Med was already operating on razor thin margins before the pandemic.

“A good year for a hospital in Upstate New York may be breakeven or 1% margin. So it’s not as if we come into the pandemic running eight or 10 or even 15% margins,” he said.

Dr. McKenna said Monday he did not anticipate any more layoffs at this point.