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Via Christi Health system to cut 400 workers

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, May 21, 2013, at 12:31 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, May 21, 2013, at 5:45 p.m.

Via Christi Health announced Tuesday it will lay off up to 400 staff members across Kansas – about 4 percent of its workforce – by the end of June.

Via Christi officials said that like other health care providers, they have seen a decline in hospital admissions and physician visits, leading to lower than anticipated revenue.

The majority of the cuts will be in Wichita, said Jeff Korsmo, president and CEO of Via Christi Health.

“It will be more in our hospital and clinic settings and less in senior services, which haven’t felt the same volume impact and negative volume trend,” Korsmo said.

Early estimates are that about 50 positions will be eliminated in Pittsburg, about 25 positions will be cut from Manhattan, and the remainder of the reductions will be made in Wichita.

Via Christi has about 10,000 staff members statewide.

Last month, Via Christi Health was completely acquired by Ascension Health.

In an interview conducted at the time of the announcement of that acquisition, Korsmo said there, “won’t be a gutting of jobs in the community” following the merger.

“This has nothing to do with Ascension,” Korsmo said in an interview Tuesday. “This was our action to put ourselves back into a stronger place so we can meet the mission our founding sisters created here.”

Korsmo said they do not yet have specific information on what positions or staff will be affected.

“We’re trying hard to protect the (positions) closest to the bedside, but it’s best not to get into department breakdowns,” Korsmo said.

When asked if upper level administrators will also face layoffs, Korsmo said, “There is no part of the organization that will go without some reductions.”

Senior leaders will also take a salary reduction of 4 percent.

“Although difficult, these changes are necessary and likely will be the first of a number of changes that we will have to make in order to be more cost-effective so that we can ensure the future sustainability of our mission,” Korsmo said in a news release.

To minimize the impact of the layoffs, Via Christi will eliminate some vacant positions. Korsmo did not have an estimate of the number of vacated positions that will count toward the reduction.

Laid-off staff will receive severance and “other support in accordance with Via Christi’s Workforce in Transition policies,” according to the release.

Korsmo said the job cuts will help put Via Christi on more solid financial footing and will strengthen its mission to serve the underserved. He said the hospitals will continue to invest in such things as private patient rooms, expanding behavioral needs services and other areas that will ensure “growth in the future.”

Although it is not operating at a loss, its 2013 operating margin as of April 30 was 0.1 percent, “a fraction of the 3 percent to 4 percent operating margin needed to sustain its mission in the long term,” according to the release.

Korsmo did not have specific numbers on the volume shortfalls, but said Via Christi has experienced the shortfalls for three consecutive months, and officials don’t anticipate that they will bounce back in the short term.

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com.

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