Sacramento medical imaging firm Radiological Associates of Sacramento laid off 5 percent of its workforce and is closing two of its imaging centers at the end of the year in the firm's first-ever layoffs.
RAS president Jonathan Breslau said 46 employees were let go Dec. 2. Hardest hit was RAS' diagnostic imaging division, losing 39 employees, in what Breslau on Friday called "the last, least desirable step in a process of strategic cuts."
"We are in an increasingly competitive climate. There is increased competition from the large hospitals that are doing more imaging than they used to," he said. "The primary goal is to be more strong going forward."
Breslau also blamed the region's poor economy and smaller Medicare and Medi-Cal reimbursements for imaging services for the layoffs and center closures.
Fewer people are insured, he said, "and some people who are insured are considering what they want to do with their out-of-pocket expenses."
Both are vexing problems for radiology firms across the state, said Bob Aschermann, executive director of the California Radiological Society.
"This is a very expensive technology and specialty to maintain, and Medi-Cal still pays very, very low for some procedures," Aschermann said, adding that some potential patients are delaying a trip to the lab.
"People put off going to the doctor in many cases, and the use of imaging is declining or flat," he said.
RAS also is absorbing the impact of Sutter Health's 2010 split with the Sacramento firm after more than 50 years, Aschermann said.
The RAS employees the first to be laid off since the firm's founding in 1917 were offered severance packages based on their seniority and can reapply for positions at other RAS sites, officials said.
The cuts include closures of the RAS magnetic resonance imaging centers in Carmichael and at 29th and K streets in Sacramento, and come after the company earlier imposed furloughs and cuts in benefits ranging from tuition reimbursement to travel expenditures.
The two centers to be closed offered only MRI services. Full-service centers are within a half-mile of the two offices, Breslau said in explaining the closures. Nine imaging centers remain.
RAS employs about 900 people at sites in Sacramento, Auburn, Cameron Park, Folsom, Roseville and Vacaville.