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‘A complete shock’: More than 40 employees laid off from Warrensburg hospital trying to cut costs

WARRENSBURG, Mo. -- It came as a complete shock.

That's what one former employee from Western Missouri Medical Center said Tuesday, one day after being let go. The hospital confirmed that 41 employees were laid off on Monday.

One employee told FOX4 some supervisors weren't aware of these plans until Monday afternoon and then had to call employees in one at a time to tell them their jobs had been cut.

Another employee said she was notified her job was gone between her rounds with patients, and she was made to go back to seeing patients after getting the news.

In a news release, Western Missouri Medical Center CEO Darinda Reberry cited the challenges community hospitals face while competing against those owned by large corporations. Reberry said the hospital was evaluating ways to save money.

A hospital spokesperson told FOX4 the cuts came from multiple hospital departments.

"These decisions were difficult for all, but were necessary to strengthen us financially for years to come, allowing WMMC to continue doing what we love -- making a difference in the lives of our patients and greater community," Reberry said in the statement.

FOX4's Sean McDowell spoke with six former employees at Western Missouri Medical Center -- all of whom were afraid to speak on camera because the hospital threatened in writing to withhold their severance pay if they spoke out. That's standard in many businesses.

One employee said she was heartbroken. Another said she was fired without notice.

"It's a challenging financial environment," said Christopher Garmon, an assistant professor of health administration at UMKC.

Garmon understands the strain independent hospitals face. He said doctor shortages and declining patient populations often lead non-corporate hospitals, such as WMMC, to seek ways to save money.

"That's why you often see job losses like this," he said. "It's a cost-cutting measure. Try to renegotiate their contracts with health insurance companies, but sometimes that's very difficult, given the leverage health insurance companies have."

Overall, Western Missouri Medical Center continues to experience tough times. A source close to the hospital confirmed to FOX4 the medical center has lost $7.8 million in the past year alone, and now, 41 employees won't receive a paycheck.