Hennepin County Medical Center, responding to reports of potential layoffs at the metro area's only public hospital, issued a statement late Wednesday saying employees were told there will be "workforce reductions" in 2017.

"While we have continued to see an increase in patient volume this year, as we finalize the 2017 financial plan it is clear that the increasing cost of salaries, wages, and benefits and the rising cost of supplies, equipment, and pharmaceuticals, together with public program reimbursements that are less than the cost of providing care, are contributing to the financial challenge," the statement said.

"We expect to know the scope of the changes by mid-to-late January and fully implement them by the end of March. Our system provides many critical services to this community and we are taking these steps to be able to continue to provide them in the future," it said.

HCMC spokeswoman Christine Hill said it's too early to tell exactly how many people will be laid off. The statement did not say which departments will be cut.

In early November, HCMC announced it wants to change its name to Hennepin Healthcare Medical Center to better brand the downtown Minneapolis hospital and its growing health care system — despite opposition from some of the county leaders who oversee it.

The County Board's health and human services committee approved the name change on a 5-2 vote. The change would take effect in 2018, coinciding with the opening of a new $224.6 million six-story specialty center downtown.

The medical center last announced layoffs in May 2009 when it said it would eliminate 75 to 100 jobs by the end of June 2009 to save money.

That was its second round of layoffs that year. HCMC also required administrators, managers and supervisors to take two days off without pay in 2009.

According to HCMC's 2015 annual report, more than 6,800 people work in the 455-bed hospital and its associated clinics and service centers.

Pat Pheifer • 612-673-7252