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Trinity Health Michigan lays off, furloughs another 1,000 employees

St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Hospital

A second wave of job cuts and layoffs have hit a Michigan health care system as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the economy.

Layoffs and schedule reductions for 1,000 full-time workers or their equivalents will begin this week and continue through the end of July at Trinity Health Michigan, which includes the St. Joseph Mercy Health System and Mercy Health, according to a memo sent to staff Monday by President and CEO Mike Slubowski. 

"Unfortunately, we are still losing millions of dollars per day, and the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve with COVID-19 cases increasing in some regions in recent weeks," he wrote in the memo.

The health system must "restructure and resize, ... redesign our work and reduce our costs with this lower revenue base," he said. "Unfortunately, this requires additional colleague transitions — including position eliminations and severances, extended or new furlough and extended or new reductions in schedules."

The cuts will affect primarily non-clinical and administrative positions.  

The Livonia-based health system saw a 50% drop in patient activity in March and April, resulting in an operating loss of $184 million in those two months, said spokeswoman Laura Blodgett.

"Trinity Health has an overall plan to try and achieve just over break-even financial performance for the next year," she said. "While the announcement on restructuring and staff reductions was made this week, it is part of a plan that includes non-labor expenses and potential revenue opportunities."

In April, Trinity Health Michigan furloughed 10% of its workforce in Michigan — about 2,600 employees. Roughly 80 executives at the levels of vice president and above at Mercy Health and Saint Joseph Mercy Health System took compensation reductions up to 25%, and will not get performance-based incentives during this time, Blodgett said.

Since then, Blodgett said roughly 1,200 employees were recalled to work as the health system has ramped up services.   

Job cuts are continuing at Michigan Medicine, the Ann Arbor-based health system affiliated with the University of Michigan, as well. 

Spokeswoman Mary Masson confirmed Tuesday that 38 emergency department technicians were laid off last week, as part of a job-reduction plan initially announced May 5 that outlined the elimination of 1,400 positions.

However, Masson said attrition and furloughs reduced the total number of job losses needed. Instead of cutting 1,400 jobs, Michigan Medicine was able to limit the cuts to 738 positions. 

The 38 emergency department technicians laid off last week "are just a small fraction of the total layoffs," said Masson in an email to the Free Press. "At this point, we don’t expect additional layoffs."

With the cuts of emergency department techs at Michigan Medicine, it leaves just 12 on staff, Masson said, adding that other employees will be re-assigned to fill in for the workers whose jobs were cut. 

"Depending on tenure, those impacted will receive pay and benefits for varying periods of time and all will have access to career transition assistance," she said in an email to the Free Press.

But at least two of the emergency department techs who spoke to the Free Press on the condition of anonymity out of fear that they won't be able to be rehired, said they feel as if they gave the health system their all at the height of the coronavirus surge, risking their lives to care for patients, only to find themselves unemployed as COVID-19 hospitalizations fell in June. 

"Everybody talks about health care heroes and they all talk about how much they support health care workers, but then when it comes down to it, we're getting laid off," said one emergency department tech whose job was eliminated. 

She's worried she won't be able to get a new job because many health care systems have been laying off workers in the pandemic.

"I don't know where to go," she said. "There's not that many options right now."

Contact Kristen Jordan Shamus: 313-222-5997 or kshamus@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus. 

Michigan Radio, Bridge Magazine, and The Detroit Free Press are teaming up to report on Michigan hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic. We will be sharing accounts of the challenges doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel face as they work to treat patients and save lives. If you work in a Michigan hospital, we would love to hear from you. You can contact reporters Robin Erb rerb@bridgemi.com at Bridge, Kristen Jordan Shamus kshamus@freepress.com at the Free Press and Kate Wells katwells@umich.edu at Michigan Radio.

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