Southwest Michigan

Sturgis Hospital CEO defends cuts as necessary

STURGIS, Mich. (WOOD) — Sturgis Hospital President and CEO Robert LaBarge was in the hot seat Monday as hundreds of people packed a local school gymnasium, wanting answers about deep cuts he announced last week.  

Many people who attended the town hall at Eastwood School were still in shock that the hospital is shuttering services and cutting about 60 employees. On the chopping block are hospice and childbirth services and the oncology treatment center.

“Ton of bricks,” hospital nurse Charlie Persinger said when asked how he received the news.

“I was shocked,” Kelli Glick, another nurse, said. “Speechless. I just couldn’t believe it.”

Some people worried their jobs will be cut.

“What we’re looking for is a little more transparency from our director,” Persinger said.

Others wondered where people will go for medical services.

“The community had no clue that they would not be able to deliver their babies here, get their oncology treatments here,” Glick said.

But LaBarge said the cuts were necessary and long overdue.

“You know, if I could go back and do things differently, I probably would have made these changes months ago,” he told the crowd.

He said he was looking for a partner to help maintain the services.

“It’s taken much longer than we expected and we’re now in a position where we can’t hang on to everything and subsidize it like we have in the past,” he said.

LaBarge said the hospital once served 20 patients a day. Now, it cares for about eight. Births at the hospital have dropped from 450 a year to 300.

“As you get down to that level of activity, you can’t support the cost of that operation,” he said.

Some reorganization began Monday; the rest of the cuts are expected to go into effect by the end of the month.

Members of the Michigan Nurses Association helped host the town hall.


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