The other shoe has dropped, and 25 nurses at Danbury and New Milford hospitals no longer have jobs.

The Western Connecticut Health Network, the umbrella organization for the two hospitals, announced last month it would eliminate 116 positions -- laying off 65 employees and putting a freeze on hiring for 51 vacant jobs -- as the result of a two-year, $30 million reduction in state funding.

Twenty-five nursing positions were included among the 65 layoffs, but WCHN officials offered the nurses unions the chance to preserve those jobs if they agreed to concessions that included reduced compensation for night and weekend shifts and adjusted overtime pay.

The nurses were put in a difficult spot: Should they agree to pay cuts to save 25 positions, or should they hold firm on hard-earned, negotiated pay practices and see 25 nurses lose their jobs?

The unions at both hospitals voted overwhelmingly to hold firm on compensation, and 25 nurses are now out of work -- 21 at Danbury Hospital and four at New Milford Hospital. Two other New Milford nurses have had their hours reduced.

We are saddened by all of these developments, which are unfortunately a sign of the times.

We hate to see 65 people lose their jobs, 25 of them nurses who represent the heart and soul of the hospitals.

We feel badly for the many other members of the WCHN workforce -- more than half of the network's 4,280 employees -- who have been hit by pay cuts as part of the network's effort to find cost savings.

And we are troubled by all the finger-pointing going on in the wake of the state cutback in funding to hospitals and the consequent budget-cutting at Danbury and New Milford hospitals, including more than $12 million in employee compensation.

There are those who are pointing the finger at the nurses unions for deciding to preserve compensation levels instead of saving 25 jobs.

There are those who point the finger instead at the network for targeting nursing positions instead of reducing executive salaries and/or accepting a smaller net annual profit.

Fingers are also being pointed at Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the state Legislature for making such draconian cuts -- $550 million across the state -- in hospital funding.

And fingers are being zeroed in on the federal government and the still-struggling economy for the role they have played in making all of the state and hospital cuts necessary.

None of that finger-pointing does any good, however, and we believe it would behoove the various players in this real-life drama -- state leaders, hospital officials, union leaders and network employees -- to step up their communication with the other players to help avoid a similar scenario in the future.

Only time will tell what impact the layoffs will have on Danbury and New Milford hospitals.

Only time will tell whether patient care will suffer due to the reduction in the number of nurses working at the two facilities.

Network officials are confident the two hospitals will be able to provide top-quality nursing care despite the cuts.

They point out that the elimination of 25 nursing positions represents only 3.5 percent of the nursing staff and that there will still be nearly 600 nurses at Danbury Hospital and more than 100 at New Milford Hospital.

Officials also say not as many nurses are needed these days due to the gradual reduction in in-patient volumes and the number of births in the two local hospitals in recent years.

Hospital officials also have confidence in their employees and believe they will commit themselves to make things work despite reduced staffing levels -- the same way employees have done in other industries in this difficult era.

We hope the officials are correct, and we hope hospital employees in Danbury, New Milford and across the state will make the needed commitment to make sure patient care does not suffer.