Photo above: Ballad Health Chairman Alan Levine
Ballad Health is in the process of eliminating around 150 jobs. The positions affected by elimination of duplicative jobs include senior-level executives as well as middle management and front-line team members. An additional 49 empty positions have already been eliminated through attrition.
At a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Ballad Chairman and CEO Alan Levine said the move represents the first step in a shifting of jobs from administrative and management positions to more direct care hires. “The next step in things that will occur is, we’re going to submit plans to the both states for our population health investments, for research, for expansion of pediatric and physician services, and of course the development of a pediatric trauma center and the pediatric emergency access points in Bristol and Kingsport. Once we start the process of spending the capital for that, people will see it right away, and of course, once you open those services you have to start hiring people. You’re shifting away from administrative costs and preparing yourself to make the investments we have committed to in the COPA. We fully intend on fulfilling those commitments.”
None of the positions eliminated will be in the chain’s small rural hospitals, Levine said. “Thirteen of our 21 hospitals are considered rural under the COPA…Those are some precious access points for those communities, and they’re jobs. If you add up the operating losses of our rural hospitals, they exceed the loss of the system…If the COPA didn’t exist and we were still just Mountain States and Wellmont, I promise you there would be conversations right now about which of those hospitals would be closed…One of the commitments we made in the COPA was to keep them open…It is clear the COPA is doing its job, because not one job is being affected by this announcement today.”
The total number of positions being eliminated is less than management estimated in September. “We spent the last several months looking at where we had duplication,” Levine said. “We went to each department throughout the system. They had the best visibility on where there was duplication of effort. They made their recommendations and there was a lot of dialogue internally, but it was a process from the department levels up.” Levine said he made the decision to cut nine senior managers among a couple dozen management members affected.
“My thoughts right now are with the individuals and their families who have been affected by this and the remaining team members who go to work every day, frankly in a very uncertain envirnoment not of their creation, because of external pressures. We believe this merger actually minimized what would have been a much bigger impact had Mountain States and Wellmont done something separate.” Ballad has previously estimated 1,000 jobs could have been cut if the two systems pursued separate mergers. “So yes, this is a horrible outcome for the people affected. We have done what we could do to minimize that.”
Severance pay and comprehensive outplacement services are being offered to affected team members, and some are eligible to apply for other open positions within Ballad Health if they choose. Ballad Health currently has more than 700 vacant positions and is seeking to hire people into those positions. More than half of these positions are in nursing.