Carrie Rengers

Via Christi Health eliminates 150 positions, adds 80 others

In response to performance issues, Via Christi Health is eliminating about 150 positions but adding 80 others.
In response to performance issues, Via Christi Health is eliminating about 150 positions but adding 80 others. File photo

In response to fiscal 2016 financial performance, Via Christi Health is eliminating 150 positions – about 70 of which are currently occupied – but it’s also adding 80 bedside nursing positions to help handle growth.

In an e-mail to employees late Monday, COO and interim CEO Todd Conklin said that Via Christi’s fiscal 2016 performance is below its “budgeted operating margin target of 2.8 percent” and it will consequently eliminate about 70 jobs over the next two weeks and not fill another 80 that have been vacated over the past three months as part of regular turnover.

“We have carefully re-organized work to allow us to not fill such positions,” Conklin wrote.

“For those associates who will be displaced, we are working to find other suitable positions, wherever possible, within our health system,” Conklin said in a statement. “Those who do not find new positions will be provided severance based on their years of service.”

Reductions will include senior leadership and other management but won’t include nurses who do direct patient care.

“Our steps to manage this through attrition have allowed us to limit such reductions to 1% of our team of 7,000 associates,” Conklin wrote.

He said that several things led to the need for reductions, including lower payments from government and commercial insurance payers, substantial increases in the price of pharmaceutical drugs and increases in nurses’ wages.

When asked through a spokeswoman about how Medicaid cuts and lack of expansion in Kansas have affected Via Christi’s decisions, Conklin replied in a written statement through the spokeswoman:

“Our state’s decision not to expand KanCare continues to have a significant negative impact on Kansas health systems, especially those that like Via Christi serve this important part of our communities,” Conklin said.

Gov. Sam Brownback, who has opposed Medicaid expansion, said Tuesday evening: “The Obama administration has cut reimbursement for Medicare, not Medicaid, for seniors. This has cost Kansas hospitals hundreds of millions of dollars. Expanding Obamacare would not make up for the losses that the Obama administration has imposed.”

Conklin wrote to employees that there were some improvements in 2016 and that there need to be improvements in 2017, “… but we have lowered our budgeted operating margin target for fiscal year 2017 to 2.2% to ensure that we achieve it.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers