As part of a financial restructuring plan, Sacramento, Calif.-based Sutter Health will issue another round of layoffs this year, according to the Sacramento Business Journal.
The health system said it plans to lay off 400 more employees. These newly announced layoffs are in addition to 277 information technology jobs that were cut April 2.
Sutter said most of the new layoffs affect employees in administrative positions in benefits, human resources, data services and accounting. The layoff notice said many of these employees were working remotely or in the field.
Sutter told the Business Journal that it’s working to evaluate every aspect of its business model.
“Moving forward, we will continue to work to minimize staff reductions and their impact on our dedicated employees as we look for ways to eliminate variation, streamline resources and more efficiently manage our indirect costs,” Sutter told the Business Journal.
Sutter ended 2020 with a $321 million operating loss, including $800M in funding from the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Without the funding, Sutter’s operating loss would have been $1.1 billion. As a result, Sutter initiated a sweeping review of its finances in March 2021.
Workers at three Tenet Healthcare hospitals in Southern California will hold a rally May 6 to highlight their concerns about staffing, wages and benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the union that represents them.
The rally comes as the National Union of Healthcare Workers is in negotiations with Dallas-based Tenet for more than 600 direct Tenet employees at Fountain Valley Regional, including respiratory therapists, nursing assistants and X-ray technicians. The union is also in negotiations with the Compass Group, a food and support services provider, for about 225 housekeepers and food service workers at Tenet California hospitals in Fountain Valley, Los Alamitos and Lakewood, who are subcontracted by Tenet and employees of Compass.
Union spokesperson Matt Artz told Becker’s workers contend Tenet has remained profitable during the pandemic, but it did not implement appropriate safety measures. He said Tenet also rejected proposals to better staff certain units, and it has rejected the union’s proposal to stop subcontracting out the housekeepers and food service workers who have struggled to afford healthcare.
The union said Tenet, a major for-profit hospital operator, has the financial means to address these issues. The company reported a $97 million profit in the first quarter of 2021. Tenet stock also recently hit a new 52-week high, according to an April 29 report from Zacks Equity Research.
“These profits are not helping workers or patients,” Christina Rodriguez, a respiratory therapist at Fountain Valley (Calif.) Regional Hospital, said in a May 5 news release. “They’re being made at the expense of patient care and the people who have put their health on the line to help patients during this pandemic. At the height of the surge, I would go home crying that we didn’t have enough staff to help patients struggling to survive.”
Tenet contends the issue is not about Tenet but rather about negotiations between Compass and the union. Tenet said it is focused on staff and patients.
“This matter is not about us. It’s about a negotiation strictly between the NUHW and the Compass Group, which is a vendor that provides a range of food, laundry and other support services to hospitals,” Tenet told Becker’s. “At all times, our main concern is the safety of our staff, the integrity of our facilities and the best possible outcomes for our patients, and we remain hopeful that the NUHW and Compass will reach a positive outcome at the conclusion of their respective negotiations.”
But the union said Tenet can decide whether to bring the subcontracted housekeepers and food service workers in-house, which would benefit them in terms of wages and health benefits.
Meanwhile, Compass said it will continue to negotiate in good faith, with union members.
“Our hardworking team members are at the heart of what we do, and their determination to provide best-in-class care and service is inspiring,” a Compass spokesperson told Becker’s.“We take pride in paying competitive wages and providing affordable benefits and continue to uphold our agreement with the NUHW. We have a long history of listening to our employees, working productively with unions, and will continue to meet and negotiate — always in good faith.”
Respiratory therapists, housekeepers, nursing assistants, medical technicians, dietary workers and others represented by the union said they plan to rally from 11 a.m. to noon May 6 outside Fountain Valley Regional.
The rally, scheduled after Tenet’s shareholders meeting, includes workers from Los Alamitos (Calif.) Medical Center and Lakewood (Calif.) Regional Medical Center. Union workers whose jobs are subcontracted to Compass will speak during the rally, the union said.
As health systems look to address the “social determinants of health”, one obvious but often overlooked place to start is with their own employees. The left side of the graphic below shows forecasted employment growth and salaries across a range of healthcare occupations. Many of the fastest-growing healthcare jobs—including home health and personal aides, medical assistants, and phlebotomists—are among the lowest-paid.
Case in point: home health and personal care aides are among the top 20 fastest-growing occupations in the US, and median wage for these jobs is only about $12 per hour, or around 200 percent of the federal poverty level—well below the living wage in many parts of the nation. (Note that this analysis does not include support staff who are not healthcare specific, like custodial or dietary workers, so the number of low-wage workers at health systems is likely higher.)
Among of the many struggles lower-income healthcare employees face is finding affordable housing. Using fair market rent data from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the right side of the graphic shows that healthcare support workers, even at the 90th percentile salary level, struggle to afford rent in the majority of the 50 largest US metros areas. In particular, home health aides in the top decile of earners can only afford rent in 14 percent of major cities.
These disparities have caught the attention of lawmakers. The $400B in President Biden’s proposed infrastructure plan devoted to home healthcare for seniors includes tactics to increase the wages and quality of life for these caregivers. But as we await policy solutions, health systems should pay careful attention to issues of housing insecurity and other structural challenges facing their workers and look to increase wages and provide targeted support to these critical team members.
About 800 nurses at a Tenet hospital are on the third week of a strike that’s shaping up to be one of the longest among healthcare workers in recent years.
At the hospital chain’s St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts, nurses represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association have been on strike since March 8 following a breakdown in negotiations over a new contract they’ve been bargaining for since November 2019.
Nurses have been active on the labor organization front in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and share a common issue at stake — staffing levels, and more specifically the nurse to patient ratio.
At St. Vincent, unionized nurses say their staffing has been worsened by the pandemic, affecting their ability to adequately care for patients.They point to hundreds of unsafe staffing reports filed by nurses over the past year, and the departure of more than 100 St. Vincent nurses over the past 10 months.
The hospital rejects those claims, and said only two citations have been issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health since 2019, according to a release.
The changes MNA is asking for are “excessive,” St. Vincent Hospital CEO Carolyn Jackson contended in an interview with Healthcare Dive, and the hospital cannot agree to the “aggressive” levels the union is proposing.
The two sides haven’t met again since the strike began, and do not have a timeline to get back to the table.
Right now, St. Vincent operates on staffing guidelines brokered after its nurses waged a 49-day strike over their first union contract in 2000. Under those terms, one nurse in its medical surgical units can be assigned to either four or five patients.
The terms proposed by MNA stipulate that one nurse in those units would be assigned to four patients at a maximum. MNA is also asking for a five-nurse critical care float pool, and for the hospital to double its emergency department staff from 71 employees to 157, Jackson said.
California is currently the only state with mandated ratios of one nurse to five patients in medical surgical units.
“It has been our request for them to remove some of those unreasonable, or preferably all of those unreasonable staffing requests, and come back to the table and really work on getting a reasonable deal done,” Jackson said.
During the first week of the strike, the hospital paid over $5 million to hire replacement nurses, according to a release. When asked directly about how much the hospital has spent so far, Jackson declined to answer.
“It is definitely an added expense to the hospital, and that is challenging,” she said.
The strike in 2000 ended when both parties reached a deal brokered by former Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., that resulted in provisions to limit mandatory overtime and the staffing guidelines currently in place.
But this time it seems “there is no point at which anybody’s going to step in and settle this for the two parties,” Paul Clark, professor and director of Penn State’s school of labor and employment relations said.
The union has garnered support from Massachusetts lawmakers including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. James McGovern and former Rep. Joe Kennedy, who visited the picket line on March 12, along with state Attorney General Maura Healey, who visited Wednesday.
The Worcester City Council also approved a resolution in support of the striking nurses at St. Vincent on March 16.
But those moves wield little power to break the strike, although the political pressure could hurt the hospital.
“The increased cost is, perhaps, public opinion beginning to coalesce behind the union,” Clark said.
Strikes have costs for both sides, as nurses on the picket line have gone without pay for almost three weeks now.
“Until the cost becomes too great to one or the other sides, they’re going to continue down this road,” Clark said.
Many hospitals are temporarily or permanently reducing the size of their workforce as they grapple with depleted revenues and the thorny question of when they can return to normal operating capacity. Here’s a tracker to follow the latest updates.
Hospitals across the country, financially battered as they face the dual challenges of sick COVID-19 patients and a precipitous decline in patient volume, are struggling to balance quickly shifting staffing needs. While some face and others brace for intense demand, many have announced furloughs of specialists and others that work in elective surgeries that have been drastically scaled back.
Thousands of healthcare workers at hospitals big and small have been asked not to return to work, and it’s still unclear how soon non-essential services will return. While some governors announce plans to reopen businesses, others have extended stay-at-home orders.
Most recent data from the U.S Bureau of Labor doesn’t cover the second half of March or early April, but during the first half of March, the healthcare industry shed 43,000 jobs — reversing a decade of growth in the sector. According to BLS data, the industry added 49,000 jobs in March 2019.
“Even our emergency room has seen a significant drop in patients coming in,” Sue Philips, an ICU nurse at Palomar Pomerado Health in Northern San Diego, told Healthcare Dive.
Phillips is a spokesperson with National Nurses United, the country’s largest nurses union. Palomar Health, which runs three medical centers in northern San Diego County, recently instituted 21-day temporary layoffs of 221 employees.
On April 28, Palomar announced that most of those layoffs were becoming permanent. The system laid off 5% of its workforce, eliminating 317 positions. Fifty of those employees were clinical RNs, mostly in part-time positions, and the rest spread across the organization ranging from clerical staff to technicians.
Due to a 50% decrease in patient volumes, Palomar lost $10 million in revenue in March alone, according to a statement. In April the system said it stands to lose $20 million or more.
“I’m an ICU nurse, so my job is pretty much protected,” Phillips said. “But you didn’t think you were expendable until you became expendable, and that’s a hard pill for nurses and caregivers to swallow.”
Congress has attempted to financially support struggling hospitals through ongoing coronavirus relief legislation, approving some $175 billion thus far. But without knowing what will come next, hospitals are attempting to remain nimble while reining in one of their most costly expenses — paying employees.
The following information is based on publicly reported data, along with interviews with hospital representatives and union members.
It’s not an exhaustive list, but features nonprofit and for-profit hospital systems that reported revenue above $10 billion in 2019. It also takes a look at smaller, more regionally based systems that have announced similar cutbacks.
Click on link above to use the dropdown to find a company.
Healthcare job losses reached staggering levels amid stay-at-home orders and the widespread cancellation of elective procedures when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit this spring. Dentists and ambulatory services were particularly hard hit.
While the industry has since recovered many of the 1.3 million jobs lost this April, it’s still 527,000 short from February levels, and monthly gains have slowed since, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
At the same time, some of the major hospitals that issued furloughs or layoffs early in the pandemic are now further reducing the size of their workforce.
The stagnation will likely continue, as companies “don’t hire as many people, then lay some people off to also try and save money, because worse times may be ahead,” said Erica Groshen, former BLS commissioner and senior labor economics adviser at Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
One example is Dallas-based Baylor Scott & White, which laid off 3% of its workforce, or 1,200 employees in May. It’s now laying off a third of its corporate finance staff, though some impacted employees are being offered positions with a third-party vendor, the system said in a Monday statement.
Providence Health & Serviceslaid off 183 employees in mostly administrative roles as a result of transitioning work to a third-party vendor, while five employees were laid off “as a result of business need,” according to a WARN notice letter the system sent to an Oregon state agency Nov. 16. It previously issued an unknown number of furloughs across its 51-hospital system.
And Utah-based Intermountain Healthsaid it would cut 250 business-related jobs by offering 750 employees voluntary separation packages on Oct. 13.
The moves come even while hospitals are stretched to the brink from the highest surge of coronavirus cases the country has yet seen. In the past few weeks, many have halted elective procedures and paid steep rates for temporary nursing staff, further straining finances.
And other healthcare establishments, such as some doctor’s offices and medical labs, are still struggling to get reluctant patients back in.
A recent Labor Department survey covering the onset of the pandemic through September found among all healthcare businesses, 64% experienced a decrease in demand while only 13% experienced an increase in demand.
In November, healthcare businesses overall added 46,000 jobs in — fewer than the 58,000 jobs added in October; 53,000 in September; and 75,000 in August, according to BLS data.
Hospitals added about 4,000 jobs in November and are about 100,000 jobs short from February.
Dallas-based Baylor Scott & White Health said it will lay off 102 employees in finance and accounting roles as part of an effort to reshape operations and reduce costs, according to The Dallas Morning News.
The duties of the affected workers will be outsourced to a third-party vendor in India. About 18 of the affected Baylor employees will be offered positions with the vendor, according to the report.
A spokesperson for Baylor Scott & White told Becker’s Hospital Review that the system will retain about two-thirds of its corporate finance department.
“Our system is continuously looking for ways to reduce costs and improve our ability to provide affordable and quality healthcare for our patients and members. As part of this, we are transforming the way we deliver our corporate finance services,” the nonprofit health system wrote in a statement obtained by Becker’s.
The cuts follow a larger round of layoffs and furloughs announced in May, which affected about 1,200 employees, or 3 percent of its workforce.
The health system said it is working to be more efficient and intentional in how resources are used. It is working to add front-line caregivers and has more than 2,000 open clinical jobs, a spokesperson told Becker’s.
“We care deeply about all our colleagues and are committed to supporting them through this process,” the statement read.
The financial challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have forced hundreds of hospitals across the nation to furlough, lay off or reduce pay for workers, and others have had to scale back services or close.
Lower patient volumes, canceled elective procedures and higher expenses tied to the pandemic have created a cash crunch for hospitals. U.S. hospitals are estimated to lose more than $323 billion this year, according to a report from the American Hospital Association. The total includes $120.5 billion in financial losses the AHA predicts hospitals will see from July to December.
Hospitals are taking a number of steps to offset financial damage. Executives, clinicians and other staff are taking pay cuts, capital projects are being put on hold, and some employees are losing their jobs. More than 260 hospitals and health systems furloughed workers this year and dozens of others have implemented layoffs.
Below are 11 hospitals and health systems that announced layoffs since Sept. 1, most of which were attributed to financial strain caused by the pandemic.
1. NorthBay Healthcare, a nonprofit health system based in Fairfield, Calif., is laying off 31 of its 2,863 employees as part of its pandemic recovery plan, the system announced Nov. 2.
2. Minneapolis-based Children’s Minnesota is laying off 150 employees, or about 3 percent of its workforce. Children’s Minnesota cited several reasons for the layoffs, including the financial hit from the COVID-19 pandemic. Affected employees will end their employment either Dec. 31 or March 31.
3. Brattleboro Retreat, a psychiatric and addiction treatment hospital in Vermont, notified 85 employees in late October that they would be laid off within 60 days.
4. Citing a need to offset financial losses, Minneapolis-basedM Health Fairview said it plans to downsize its hospital and clinic operations. As a result of the changes, 900 employees, about 3 percent of its 34,000-person workforce, will be laid off.
5. Lake Charles (La.) Memorial Health Systemlaid off 205 workers, or about 8 percent of its workforce, as a result of damage sustained from Hurricane Laura. The health system laid off employees at Moss Memorial Health Clinic and the Archer Institute, two facilities in Lake Charles that sustained damage from the hurricane.
6. Burlington, Mass.-based Wellforce laid off 232 employees as a result of operating losses linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. The health system, comprising Tufts Medical Center, Lowell General Hospital and MelroseWakefield Healthcare,experienced a drastic drop in patient volume earlier this year due to the suspension of outpatient visits and elective surgeries. In the nine months ended June 30, the health system reported a $32.2 million operating loss.
7. Baptist Health Floyd in New Albany, Ind., part of Louisville, Ky.-based Baptist Health, eliminated 36 positions. The hospital said the cuts, which primarily affected administrative and nonclinical roles, are due to restructuring that is “necessary to meet financial challenges compounded by COVID-19.”
8. Cincinnati-based UC Health laid off about 100 employees. The job cuts affected both clinical and non-clinical staff. A spokesperson for the health system said no physicians were laid off.
9. Mercy Iowa City(Iowa) announced in September that it will lay off 29 employees to address financial strain tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.
10. Springfield, Ill.-based Memorial Health Systemlaid off 143 employees, or about 1.5 percent of the five-hospital system’s workforce. The health system cited financial pressures tied to the pandemic as the reason for the layoffs.
11. Watertown, N.Y.-based Samaritan Healthannounced Sept. 8 that it laid off 51 employees and will make other cost-cutting moves to offset financial stress tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A complete financial recovery for many organizations is still far away, findings from Kaufman Hall indicate.
For the past three years, Kaufman Hall has released annual healthcare performance reports illustrating how hospitals and health systems are managing, both financially and operationally.
This year, however, with the pandemic altering the industry so broadly, the report took a different approach: to see how COVID-19 impacted hospitals and health systems across the country. The report’s findings deal with finances, patient volumes and recovery.
The report includes survey answers from respondents almost entirely (96%) from hospitals or health systems. Most of the respondents were in executive leadership (55%) or financial roles (39%). Survey responses were collected in August 2020.
Findings from the report indicate that a complete financial recovery for many organizations is still far away. Almost three-quarters of the respondents said they were either moderately or extremely concerned about their organization’s financial viability in 2021 without an effective vaccine or treatment.
Looking back on the operating margins for the second quarter of the year, 33% of respondents saw their operating margins decline by more than 100% compared to the same time last year.
Revenue cycles have taken a hit from COVID-19, according to the report. Survey respondents said they are seeing increases in bad debt and uncompensated care (48%), higher percentages of uninsured or self-pay patients (44%), more Medicaid patients (41%) and lower percentages of commercially insured patients (38%).
Organizations also noted that increases in expenses, especially for personal protective equipment and labor, have impacted their finances. For 22% of respondents, their expenses increased by more than 50%.
IMPACT ON PATIENT VOLUMES
Although volumes did increase over the summer, most of the improvement occurred in areas where it is difficult to delay care, such as oncology and cardiology. For example, oncology was the only field where more than half of respondents (60%) saw their volumes recover to more than 90% of pre-pandemic levels.
More than 40% of respondents said that cardiology volumes are operating at more than 90% of pre-pandemic levels. Only 37% of respondents can say the same for orthopedics, neurology and radiology, and 22% for pediatrics.
Emergency department usage is also down as a result of the pandemic, according to the report. The respondents expect that this trend will persist beyond COVID-19 and that systems may need to reshape their business model to account for a drop in emergency department utilization.
Most respondents also said they expect to see overall volumes remain low through the summer of 2021, with some planning for suppressed volumes for the next three years.
Hospitals and health systems have taken a number of approaches to reduce costs and mitigate future revenue declines. The most common practices implemented are supply reprocessing, furloughs and salary reductions, according to the report.
Executives are considering other tactics such as restructuring physician contracts, making permanent labor reductions, changing employee health plan benefits and retirement plan contributions, or merging with another health system as additional cost reduction measures.
THE LARGER TREND
Kaufman Hall has been documenting the impact of COVID-19 hospitals since the beginning of the pandemic. In its July report, hospital operating margins were down 96% since the start of the year.
As a result of these losses, hospitals, health systems and advocacy groups continue to push Congress to deliver another round of relief measures.
Earlier this month, the House passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill called the HEROES Act, 2.0. The bill has yet to pass the Senate, and the chances of that happening are slim, with Republicans in favor of a much smaller, $500 billion package. Nothing is expected to happen prior to the presidential election.