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BUTTE (AP) — St. James Healthcare, the largest private employer in Butte-Silver Bow County, laid off 35 employees Thursday, citing financial problems.

"It's sad and it's difficult," said James Kiser, St. James chief administrative officer.

The hospital warned in March that it needed to make adjustments to reduce expenses.

Administrators cited several financial challenges, including a lagging economy locally and nationally and malpractice insurance costs. The layoffs, which are scattered among full-time, part-time and per-diem workers and equal 21 full-time employees, are not as deep as initially feared.

St. James has more than 600 employees. Kiser said the hospital also won't fill 12 vacant positions.

Laid-off employees will receive a severance package of a week of pay per year of service up to eight weeks. They also receive a period of paid health, dental and vision coverage and may opt to extend those benefits.

The last hospital layoff was in 1995.

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