KentuckyOne begins layoffs; numbers, facilities' futures unclear - News, Weather & Sports

KentuckyOne Health begins layoffs; numbers, facilities' futures unclear

Dr. David Dunn Dr. David Dunn
Ruth Brinkley (Source: Jean West's Medical Digest) Ruth Brinkley (Source: Jean West's Medical Digest)
Prof. Eric Schansberg Prof. Eric Schansberg

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Bigger was supposed to bring better and provide greater efficiency. 

"The real focus should be on the improved health and the improved expansion of health care services for the citizens of the Commonwealth," Dr. David Dunn, the University of Louisville's Vice President for Health Affairs, put it in August 2011. 

But in the two-and-one-half years since a series of mergers created the Kentucky's largest health care provider, KentuckyOne Health is faced with finding ways to cut $218 million in expenses in the next 17 months. 

"We must adjust our expenses immediately to more closely match the dollars we're getting to take care of our patients," said Ruth Brinkley, KentuckyOne Health Chief Executive Officer, told employees via video earlier this month. 

On February 17 the layoffs began. 

"You're seeing some combination of what happens with any kind of merger," said Eric Schansberg, an economics professor at Indiana University Southeast. 

Brinkley has advised that insurance reforms implemented through the Affordable Care Act are changing the focus from acute care to preventive measures. 

"We will always need hospitals," Brinkley told former WAVE 3 News anchor and medical reporter Jean West in a December segment for West's Medical Digest. "I don't envision hospitals going away, ever." 

Nevertheless, Brinkley would tell KentuckyOne Health employees that the ACA's changing rules for reimbursement would eliminate some acute care beds. 

"We will integrate and consolidate services," Brinkley said. We cannot afford to provide every service in every location." 

KentuckyOne Health employs more than 15,000 people at 200 sites across the Commonwealth. Its partners include St. Joseph Regional Medical Centers in Berea, Mt. Sterling and Martin County, a medical center in Shelbyville tied to Jewish Hospital, numerous group medical practices, the Frazier Rehab & Neuroscience Center, the James Graham Brown Cancer Center and Our Lady of Peace adult psychiatric facility in Louisville. 

"Some of this may be eliminating duplication of service," Schansberg said. "You're gonna have maybe whole departments that are gonna get hacked, or whatever." 

Brinkley has declined comment since announcing the staff reductions via KentuckyOne Health's web site Monday.  

"Preventive care has a greater emphasis," said Schansberg. "So those jobs would be relatively safe." 

But competition could make administrative and direct-care jobs vulnerable. 

Via online message, Brlnkley advises that laid off employees will receive severance based upon seniority. KentuckyOne Health also will offer out-placement services and counseling, including extended employee assistance programs.

"We presently are notifying affected employees," said Barbara Mackovic, a KentuckyOne Health spokeswoman. "It would be inappropriate to discuss details until that is complete."

Mackovic said KentuckyOne Health expects to complete notifications by February 28. She would not confirm whether KentuckyOne Health would terminate all employees affected by that date. Schansberg said versatility could be offer some protection.

"If you're a highly skilled worker and they really value you, they can probably find some other place for you," Dr. Schansburg said. "But there's limits to that too."

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