UChicago, Rush lay off staff, cite financial struggles

University of Chicago Medical Center laid off 180 employees Thursday.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

Two of Chicago’s largest medical groups laid off employees Thursday, citing money troubles.

Also, a key health care provider for migrants and asylum-seekers in Pilsen has cut some workers’ pay by 20%.

University of Chicago Medical Center is facing the “same challenges” other health systems have, which led to the 180 layoffs, a representative said in a statement to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“The fact is many outside pressures including higher supply and labor costs are converging as healthcare delivery rapidly evolves,” President Tom Jackiewicz and Mark Anderson, executive vice president of medical affairs, wrote in a memo to employees on Thursday. “Additionally, we grew our staff to address the pandemic, which was necessary for that moment, but cannot be maintained.”

Laid-off employees, which account for about 2% of the medical center’s staff, were given severance packages, the health group said in a statement.

“The majority of affected positions are not direct patient facing and these changes will not affect the quality of patient care,” the UChicago said in the statement. “We continue to review further ways to operate more efficiently.”

UChicago reported $2.4 billion in revenue in 2021 and $2.6 billion in revenue in 2022, while net income decreased by $25.6 million, according to tax documents filed in May 2023. Five employees received seven-figure salaries in 2022.

UChicago is building a 575,000-square-foot, $815 million cancer center on its Hyde Park campus, which is expected to open in 2027.

Rush University Medical Center confirmed it laid off some employees but wouldn’t say how many.

“In response to financial headwinds affecting healthcare providers nationwide, Rush has undertaken a restructuring resulting in elimination of some administrative and leadership positions,” a Rush representative said in a statement to the Sun-Times. “Rush continues to focus resources where they are needed most — at the front-line of patient care.”

Rush Medical Center reported $2.4 billion in revenue in 2021 and $2.6 billion in 2022, while net income increased $18 million, according to tax documents filed in May 2023. In 2022, 10 employees received seven-figure salaries.

At Alivio Medical Center in Pilsen, dozens of employees have had their hours reduced from 40 to 32 a week. The affected workers range from executives to medical assistants, nurses and front-desk staff.

Former Olivio spokeswoman Terri Rivera said no one has been laid off but some employees have quit over the furloughs. She would not say how many people have been furloughed but said Alivio still has about 250 employees at seven clinics.

SEIU Healthcare represents about 40 Alivio employees who have been furloughed, said Anne Igoe, a union vice president. They include medical assistants and people who work the front desk or answer phones at the call center.

“This is incredibly traumatic [for the employees],” Igoe said.

Ollie Idowu, president and CEO of the Illinois Primary Health Care Association, which lobbies on behalf of 54 community health centers in the state, said clinics are financially struggling across Illinois. It’s not just that COVID-19 money that paid for vaccinations and testing is running dry, but also the instability of federal funds flowing in makes it hard for clinics to plan for the future, Idowu said.

“It keeps me up at night,” he said of more furloughs or layoffs happening at clinics like Alivio around the state.

Contributing: Michael Loria and WBEZ’s Kristen Schorsch

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