Altru Health System on Monday announced 167 layoffs as the Grand Forks-based health care company continued a years-long drift into financial difficulty and as coronavirus ravages the revenue streams of hospitals nationwide.
Monday’s layoffs represent 6.5% of Altru's workforce, according to an internal company email obtained by the Herald.
"In addition, we will be consolidating and realigning approximately 14% of leadership positions," Steven Weiser, Altru's president, wrote in the memo. "Most of the position reductions and consolidations will occur in administrative or support departments."
An Altru spokesperson referred to a news release sent moments later with substantially similar information — though that official release did not describe the consolidation of leadership positions.
The spokesperson did not immediately respond to a follow-up email asking how many of the 167 eliminated positions were based in Grand Forks.
Altru's finances have seen deep cuts amid the coronavirus pandemic, during which many hospitals have cut back on revenue-generating procedures — both to create space for a potential surge in covid patients and reluctance to see doctor spikes during the pandemic. In Altru's case, the company has paused construction on a new hospital, cut executive pay by 30% and rolled back staffing hours by between 10% and 15%.
But Altru's finances had already sailed into rough waters before the coronavirus pandemic. A 2016 structural failure at its Grand Forks clinic led to the launch of its still-unfinished nine-figure hospital project. Amid that financial strain, it has seen the rating on its revenue bonds downgraded and the sudden firing of two executives, in February, after only about a year on the job.
And Altru's tax filings, which are publicly available documents when filed by nonprofit groups, show the company posting negative net income during both 2017 and 2018. The 2019 filing has not yet been made public.
Persons who are leaving the company, Weiser wrote in the memo, receive a “separation package,” a payout of unused vacation “and have access to health and dental benefits through the month of June.” Laid-off workers will also retain any earned retirement benefits.
"As we face substantial financial challenges, we must continue to make changes in the best interests of those we serve,” Weiser wrote in the internal memo. “We cannot operate as we have and sustain our organization. As we adapt, we will not lose sight of our patients and our responsibility to the communities we serve. Patients always come first and providing safe, high-quality care remains our priority.”