Sanford and Avera hospitals wary about hiringSIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Sanford and Avera say they have avoided the job cuts that have hit other systems nationwide while also acknowledging that every new hire is under scrutiny because of stress in the medical industry.
By: Jon Walker, Argus Leader, INFORUM
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Sanford and Avera say they have avoided the job cuts that have hit other systems nationwide while also acknowledging that every new hire is under scrutiny because of stress in the medical industry.
“We’re not immune. The cost pressures and changes you're seeing nationally you’re also seeing locally," said Nate White, chief operating officer for Sanford.
Sanford eliminated 50 management jobs in June to save $10 million a year, but apart from that has not gone through any significant reductions, White said.
“We’ve had no layoffs, no furloughs, none of that going on,” he said. When we do have turnover, we do take a hard look at the structure to see if we can become more efficient.”
Avera also reports no layoffs.
“We’re not doing any of that at this point,” said David Kapaska, CEO at Avera McKennan Hospital.
Both systems have hundreds of jobs that are vacated and refilled in a year.
When openings occur, “we’re assessing each of those very carefully,” Kapaska said.
Sanford has 11,500 employees in metro Sioux Falls and 26,000 in eight states. Avera employs 6,170 in its Sioux Falls region and 13,500 in five states. That makes the two systems the biggest local employers, among the largest in the Midwest and one reason the health care workforce here has more than doubled the past 10 years.
U.S. News and World Report said pressure from national health care reform is one factor forcing medical systems to cut payroll. The publication said Cleveland Clinic offered 3,000 employees buyouts while Vanderbilt cut 1,000 medical positions and Indiana University Health another 800. Quoting government data, correspondent Kimberly Leonard said hospitals coast to coast dropped 9,000 jobs in May and another 4,400 in July.
White said Sanford’s management cuts in June were part of an effort to look 18 months ahead. Some managers left, others moved into new jobs and some jobs were redefined.
Openings are treated case by case, he said.
White replaced Becky Nelson this summer when Nelson, who turns 62 this month, retired as chief operating officer for Sanford’s overall network. Randy Bury moved into White’s old job as COO for the Sioux Falls region, and Brad Schipper took Bury’s job as COO at the Sioux Falls hospital. Sanford spread around other duties making the net effect of Nelson’s departure one less executive job.
On the other hand, when Brian Mortenson, 53, who had been Sanford Health Foundation president and point man in fundraising, departed recently to take a similar job in Arizona, the system began a national search to replace him.
At Avera McKennan, officials filled 1,100 positions in the fiscal year ending in June and are on pace to fill another 1,000 this year.
“We have filled 250 since July 1 and have about 220 positions we are actively recruiting for,” said Lynne Hagen, human resources officer for Avera McKennan.
“There are positions we are holding on, to make sure we can afford what we have ... and to give ourselves a few months to see how things are working with health reform before we add to the payroll,” Hagen said. “I want to say it’s around 125 to 130 positions.”
Some of those holds are new positions while others are backfills to replace someone who left.
The opening last week of the Internet marketplace to help people buy health insurance could bring new revenue to Avera and Sanford, both of which are sellers of the insurance and providers for those needing care. Whether that's a net gain or loss won’t be known for months. Hospitals surrendered a share of their Medicare reimbursements to help pay for the subsidies consumers will find on the Internet exchange. In many states, including South Dakota, hospitals are waiting to see whether the government will expand Medicaid to help the poor. Those details all affect hiring.