PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) - Lifespan reported Wednesday that they ended the fiscal year 2019 in the red, and are taking steps to make cuts.

The largest hospital group in the state reported an operating loss of $55 million for the fiscal year 2019 which ended on September 30. Factoring in investment income, the net loss totals $35 million for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

Lifespan operates Rhode Island Hospital, Hasbro Children's Hospital, Miriam Hospital, Bradley Hospital, and Newport Hospital.

Lifespan said the loss can be attributed to several factors like an unexpected decrease in Medicare rates, the impact of a full year without Memorial Hospital, which resulted in demands on both Miriam and Rhode Island Hospital, and more and more patients preferring to be treated in Boston.

“While the fiscal year 2019 financial results are concerning, as Rhode Island’s largest and most preferred provider of health service, and the state’s largest employer, we are committed to regaining our financial viability,” said Dr. Timothy J. Babineau, president and CEO of Lifespan in a statement.

Dr. Babineau said they have set a goal of generating $1 million in operating income for the next fiscal year, and have hired a healthcare consulting firm as part of their improvement efforts, as well as implementing an "ongoing restructuring effort throughout the system".

In addition to those efforts, Lifespan announced a "Voluntary Early Retirement Program" for eligible employees that will go into effect on March 31, 2020. According to Lifespan, fewer than 500 employees are eligible for early retirement.

"The plan will be offered system-wide to employees age 65 or older, with 10 years of eligible service as of October 1, 2019. Executives, physicians, advanced practice providers, psychologists and research scientists requiring a Ph.D., and employees with less than a .5 full-time equivalent are not eligible," said spokesperson Brenda Greene.

Greene told ABC6 in a phone call that layoffs are a possibility, but would not elaborate further.

Linda McDonald, president of Rhode Island Hospital United Nurses & Allied Professionals Local 5098, said she heard the rumors and was blindsided by them.

"I think it's been known that it's been a difficult fiscal year, but we have not heard about layoffs until today," said McDonald.

McDonald said cutting bottom line workers are not the way to save money.

"It is just inconceivable to remove the actual bedside caregivers - nurses, respiratory therapists, diagnostic imaging - we would just not be able to give care to the patients of Rhode Island."

She said if layoffs continue to be a discussion, the union will have to take action.

"Any talk of decrease in the amount of staff at the bedside will not be under our discussion. We will fight that. Period."

© WLNE-TV 2019