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Catholic Health is cutting 200 positions from its workforce

Union leader: "I’m not sure this is over"
Posted at 6:15 AM, Nov 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-21 18:16:17-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — One of the largest healthcare providers in Western New York announced it is reducing its workforce, and instituting a temporary hiring freeze.

Catholic Health announced just after 6 a.m. Thursday that it is eliminating roughly 200 positions. The reductions are coming mostly through voluntary buyouts, but some people are being laid off. They will go into effect over the next few months and include management and non-management positions.

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Outside Catholic Health on Oak Street, Buffalo.

Vacancies and consolidations are also being used to reduce the workforce.

A spokesperson attributed this all to "changing healthcare delivery models and inadequate reimbursement, which are negatively affecting providers locally and nationally."

"We are taking a methodical and measured approach to deal with the constant state of change health 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, President & CEO of Catholic Health. "This means reinventing how we deliver the highest quality care to our community now and in the future."

7 Eyewitness News spoke with a union leader who represents some of the Catholic Health workers.

CWA Local 1133 on Elk Street in Buffalo.

“I’m not sure this is over. I’m not sure if this is. This is just the beginning or if they have more planned for January,” Deborah Arnet, president, CWA Local 1133.

Arnet represents registered nurses and other employees at Mercy Hospital in south Buffalo and Kenmore Mercy.

Arnet tells 7 Eyewitness News only 11 of her members are affected by these layoffs. Three nurses at Kenmore mercy will see their hours reduced.

However, she says the workers had no idea about the changes until it was made public.

“No person should ever find out that their job is at risk by reading something in the newspaper or on Facebook or on television – it’s just not the way to treat people,” Arnet remarked. "It's tough – especially this time of year – it’s holiday time. This is a really, really tough time for anybody to find out that they’re going to be unemployed."

Catholic Health, which has about 10,000 employees also operates St. Joseph in Cheektowaga, Sisters in Buffalo and Mount St. Mary's in Niagara Falls.

All affected associates will receive severance packages and outplacement assistance as needed. Some will be able to apply for other open positions in Catholic Health.

All direct caregiver positions and certain essential positions are excluded from the hiring freeze.

Prior to the reductions, Catholic Health's workforce consisted of over 10,000 people. But last month, Catholic Health started offering buyouts. Over 100 workers accepted the offer.

"Decisions like this are never easy and we will support our associates affected by these changes," Sullivan continued. "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."

The union leader said she can't speak directly about Catholic Health finances, but this sends a message that there are money issues.

“But I always find it very interesting that right before we start contract negotiations it always seems like Catholic Health has financial issues,” Arnet replied.

Arnet says contract talks with Catholic Health begin in early February for employees at Kenmore Mercy and St. Joseph Hospital.

Arnet says Sullivan earns more than $800,000.

“Joe McDonald, I believe made $1.2 million and that’s what Mark (Sullivan) was making when he was a COO – we published that back when we were bargaining with them in 2016,” recalled Arnet.

We reached out to Catholic Health for comment on these layoffs, but a spokeswoman told us they will not be conducting interviews Thursday.