Eastern State Hospital in Lexington laying off workers due to management changeover

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comJuly 7, 2013 

As many as 65 Eastern State Hospital employees will get layoff notices this week as the psychiatric hospital moves to its new $129 million Lexington campus, but most will be able to reapply for jobs at the new facility, officials said.

In January, Gov. Steve Beshear announced that University of Kentucky HealthCare would operate and manage the new Eastern State Hospital, which is scheduled to open in early September.

From Aug. 15 through June 30, UK will be paid $34.7 million through a contract with the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Thereafter, UK would be paid about $43 million annually.

The Bluegrass Regional Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board, now known as Bluegrass.org, has operated Eastern State Hospital since 1995.

Employees affected by the layoffs have been notified, but written notices will be sent this week, said David Hanna, interim president and CEO of Bluegrass.org.

Those receiving layoff notices from Bluegrass.org include workers in the security, lab and engineering departments. Their positions are being switched to the UK payroll, said school spokeswoman Kristi Lopez. The laid-off Bluegrass.org employees will be given strong consideration for the new positions with UK, she said.

Of the positions affected by layoffs, 26 jobs in dietary and food service will be shifted to Morrison Health Care Food Services, which has been hired by UK to manage the new facility's dietary division, Lopez said. Those employees will have to go through the Morrison application process and background checks, she said.

Outside of the positions affected by the layoffs, key leadership positions at Eastern State will be switched to UK.

Overall, the number of employees will increase from 475 at the current hospital to about 518 in the new facility, Lopez said.

UK will pay Bluegrass.org to continue to provide about 425 employees, including nurses and psychologists, social workers and direct-care staff.

The new hospital at UK's Coldstream Research Campus off Newtown Pike will have 239 beds. It will provide inpatient psychiatric and behavioral health treatment. The facility has a neuro-behavioral unit for patients with brain injuries and a long-term-care geriatric unit.

The new campus includes four personal-care homes, according to the contract between UK and the state. The facility replaces the pre-Civil War-era Eastern State, the second-oldest psychiatric hospital in the country. That property, at Newtown Pike and Fourth Street, will become the new campus for Bluegrass Community and Technical College.

Meanwhile, UK's national search for a chief medical officer continues, Lopez said. In June, UK appointed Peggy Stephens, the superintendent and CEO of the 150-bed Madison State Hospital in Madison, Ind. But she changed her mind about accepting the job, citing loyalty to Madison State Hospital.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter:@vhspears.

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