Stormont Vail CEO offers insights into workforce restructure

Published: May. 28, 2020 at 9:52 PM CDT
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The COVID-19 pandemic put hospitals in crisis response - canceling elective surgeries and non-urgent visits, and sending organizations like Stormont Vail in Topeka into financial free fall.

Stormont Vail CEO Dr. Robert Kenagy said the impact in April alone was a $7.6 million loss.

He says as services start to return, they needed to make changes.

"We learned a lot about what it took to staff the hospital, what it took to staff the services we provide, how it is that we can work better together," he said.

A workforce restructuring led to eliminating 144 positions the past three months through turnover. Additional changes mean 35 currently filled positions will be eliminated, though Kenagy expects 22 of those people may take new roles.

None of the positions is in patient care: 37 percent are clerical, 20 percent supervisors or managers; others are IT and other professional roles.

All told, it's a savings of more than $8 million.

Kenagy says it's tough news to deliver at a time when health care workers are handling so much.

"It's not lip service to say they're heroes," he said. "It's just about creating an environment, and an institution that can sustain itself."

Kenagy said most pay reductions enacted in April in an initial cost-saving move are restored. He said physicians and providers will return to full pay next week, while salaries for Kenagy and his executive team remain reduced through at least July 1st.

In addition, Stormont has created 85 new positions to meet new processes brought on by COVID-19, like screening patients and visitors. Kenagy said they also have offered screening services to employers around the area, as they strive to make their workplaces safer.

Kenagy expects the increase in telemedicine to be another lingering effect of the pandemic, though questions remain if insurance companies will keep supporting it at current levels.

"We're just at the end of the beginning of this pandemic," he said. "The virus is going to be with us for a significant period of time, and we need to have safe, convenient ways to connect to people."

Stormont isn't alone. University of Kansas Health System St. Francis furloughed 235 workers and cut 29 positions in early April. They say they are bringing workers back, as patient services return.

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