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More than half of Catholic Health job cuts coming from earlier buyouts

Catholic Health is cutting about 200 jobs, more than half of which will come from employee buyouts it offered last month.

The health system, which has about 10,000 employees, said the rest of the job cuts will come from layoffs, job vacancies and consolidations. The reductions affect both management and non-management positions.

Catholic Health, the region's second-largest health system, announced in October that it had offered buyouts to an undisclosed number of nonclinical employees in response to reduced reimbursement rates from payers and changing models for delivering health care that are buffeting providers here and across the country.

"We are taking a methodical and measured approach to deal with the constant state of change health care providers across the country are experiencing while ensuring we continue to develop and deliver the type of care our patients have come to expect," said Mark Sullivan, Catholic Health's president and CEO.

"This means reinventing how we deliver the highest quality care to our community now and in the future," he said.

Catholic Health said the reductions will take effect over the next two months. Affected employees will receive severance packages and outplacement assistance as needed.

“Decisions like this are never easy, and we will support our associates affected by these changes,” Sullivan said. “While difficult, however, the proactive steps we are taking today — along with ongoing efforts to transform care, expand needed services and address inadequate reimbursement with area payers that has not kept pace with the changes in healthcare delivery — will make us stronger long-term.”

At the same time, Catholic Health is taking other steps that officials have said will "right-size the organization and improve operational efficiencies without compromising patient care." Those steps include developing a new strategic plan and investing in cutting-edge medical records technology that should come online next year.

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Eight unionized workers at South Buffalo Mercy Hospital, represented by Communications Workers of America Local 1133, are subject to layoff, and two nurses with CWA 1133 at Kenmore Mercy Hospital will have their hours reduced, said Deborah Arnet, president of CWA Local 1133.

Arnet called the timing of the announcement "sad," coming before Thanksgiving and the holidays. "I can't imagine a worse time to try and tell someone that they're being laid off," she said.

But Arnet said she was "optimistic" the eight workers subject to layoff will be able to be placed in other, vacant positions at the hospital. "Hopefully, it will minimize the number of people who are actually laid off and have to leave," she said.

"I just am hoping that there isn't anything else coming and that this is it for our members," Arnet said.

One member of CWA Local 1168 with Sisters of Charity Hospital, St. Joseph's Campus, will be laid off, said Cori Gambini, president of CWA Local 1168.

"Job loss is always awful, union or nonunion," Gambini said. "This is the result of a broken healthcare system in the nation that is being ignored by Washington. Patients will always pay the price."

Catholic Health is not alone in moving to reshape its operations. Kaleida Health, the region's largest health care provider, said last month that it would shift inpatient services from DeGraff Memorial Hospital in North Tonawanda to Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital in Amherst.

Kaleida officials blamed a $30 million reduction in reimbursements from state and federal payers for the decision to move DeGraff's inpatient care Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, effective Jan. 1, for patients who don't require care at a specialty center such as Buffalo General Medical Center, Oishei Children's Hospital or Erie County Medical Center. DeGraff's recently renovated emergency department will remain open.

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