Recently, Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) has made some difficult decisions regarding workforce and expense reductions. ("HCMC announces layoffs amid budget pinch," Feb 24). While we regret the need for these decisions that effect the lives of our employees, their families, and colleagues, we have little choice.

The fact is, these are uncertain times for hospitals and health-care systems and we need to be responsible stewards of the public trust. The financial pressures we currently face due to a perfect storm of low public program rates and spiraling health-care costs hurt HCMC and, by extension, our community.

Yet we believe that, over the years, we've proven that HCMC is a special health-care system. Each year, thousands of families are directly or indirectly touched by the care provided at Minnesota's largest Level I Adult and Pediatric Trauma Center and growing clinic system. Our physicians, nurses, other caregivers and support staff are highly skilled, compassionate people. We pride ourselves on caring for those who can't pay and are underserved, as well as those who are fully insured and have many options for their care.

But it is becoming increasingly difficult to support our mission — in part because Minnesota's payment rates and supplemental payments for safety-net systems like ours fall far short of the true cost of providing care.

We are taking steps to reduce expenses through downsizing positions, cutting spending, and streamlining services. We've worked hard to minimize the loss of jobs and patient services, and we have done our best to ensure that the workforce reduction has been equitable and respectful. We have emphasized reductions in managerial positions and avoided cuts that will compromise patient safety — and we are providing transition support for our valued employees.

HCMC will continue to provide essential community services and live our mission of "partnering with our community, our patients and their families to ensure access to outstanding care for everyone, while improving health and wellness through teaching, patient and community education, and research."

This means that we'll provide world-class clinical training for the health-care workforce of tomorrow. We will continue to operate the larger of only two critical burn centers in Minnesota as well as the state's poison control center. We will always be the backbone of the emergency/disaster preparedness system for health-care in Minnesota.

But we're going to do even more.

Thanks to growing expertise in lean management systems and the cuts we have announced, we will be operating with greater efficiency. We intend to serve more patients by opening a new clinic in the North Loop neighborhood as we continue to strengthen our downtown presence. Next year, we will consolidate more than 30 clinics that today are dispersed among nine buildings downtown into one convenient and efficient specialty center.

These and other changes are in response to market forces that demand flexibility if we are to continue to meet our mission. They also reflect our deep and abiding optimism about this community and this state, based on 130 years of experience.

Despite the challenges, we're taking a simple stand: Regardless of our trials, we're here for life. If you think our stand is admirable — if you agree that HCMC is indeed a special place — we humbly invite you to stand with us.

Jon L. Pryor is chief executive officer of Hennepin Healthcare System, Inc.