February 19, 2009
Vol. 28 No. 10

current issue
archive / search
Chronicle RSS Feed

    Chicago BioMedicine restructuring focuses on coherence

    By John Easton
    Medical Center Communications

    Chicago BioMedicine is taking the next steps in a planned reorganization that will advance its medical and academic missions while lowering overall costs and allowing for a strong and focused response to the economic downturn.

    The changes continue the work begun in 2006, when the University unified all of its activities in patient care, biomedical research and education, and community health into a single structure, now called Chicago BioMedicine.

    Medical Center CEO James Madara said the current restructuring will increase the connections between different parts of the organization and put it in a better position to meet today’s financial challenges.

    In December, when financial pressures created by the economic downturn began to accelerate changes already under way, CBM leaders identified the need to cut $100 million from the annual budget. Among the first actions was a reduction of about 15 positions in senior management, announced in early January. A process was created, in consultation with representatives from across Chicago BioMedicine, to reassess the contributions of every part of the organization to core missions.

    In a letter to the CBM community (http://www.uchospitals.edu/news/2009/20090209-reorganization.html), Madara wrote, “Our decisions have been directed by our continuing commitment to high-quality, compassionate care for patients with the most challenging diseases; the creation of new knowledge; producing the next generation of leaders; partnering with community-based providers through the Urban Health Initiative; and protecting our high-technology platform for complex patient care and leading-edge research on the South Side of Chicago.”

    The decisions are designed to make the organization somewhat smaller, but more focused on activities for which it is uniquely suited. Unfortunately that also requires a workforce reduction across all parts of the enterprise, which will decrease through a balanced combination of attrition and layoffs. Beginning Monday, Feb. 9, about 450 employees—about 5 percent of the CBM workforce—were notified that their positions were being eliminated.

    “We deeply regret the loss of so many talented employees from our team, especially at such a challenging time in the job market,” Madara said. “These colleagues deserve our sincere thanks and utmost respect as they transition in their careers. We will treat them with compassion and do everything we can do to assist them.”

    The major principle of enhancing the Medical Center’s focus on providing complex care has guided the institution’s decisions in the area of patient care. The Medical Center has long led the way in complex care, often providing intricate lifesaving procedures that few other institutions could match—such as multiple organ transplants, innovative cardiac surgery and cutting-edge clinical trials for cancer. Some of the reductions are based on how units fit within the mission of providing the highest level of complex care; other decisions stem more directly from declines in patient volume as a result of the national and local economic downturn.

    Overall, inpatient capacity will decrease by more than 30 beds, including reductions in general medicine and intensive care units, along with staff reductions in those areas. This difficult decision was based partly on the fact that some patients can be treated at other institutions, without the high-technology platform that Chicago BioMedicine provides.

    As part of the reorganization, two offsite doctors’ offices will be closed and most of their services relocated to the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine. A surgical unit will reduce weekend services and staffing, while clinical operations also will cut back on outside consultants and standardize supplies in some areas. Housecleaning staff will be reduced for non-patient areas or in clinical units affected by the decrease in patient beds.

    Patient units that remain open will preserve high standards of safety and quality by retaining current staffing ratios and contact hours between patients and nursing staff.

    The emergency department will be reorganized, with more up-front medical assessment to identify patients with urgent conditions. The institution will strengthen transfer agreements with other hospitals and clinics, as it begins to redirect patients who do not require emergency care to physician’s offices and other facilities. Madara noted that over time these changes should reduce patient volume in emergency care and help redistribute demand among a broader set of appropriate providers, Madara said.

    In addition, the Medical Center is opening a specialized intake unit to improve the quality of care for patients who already receive specialty or complex care or who develop urgent complications.

    Madara noted that as these plans are implemented, they also will be refined in consultation with clinical faculty and nursing staff.

    In the basic sciences, some staff reductions will come from consolidating administrative duties. The changes will not affect academic programs and no faculty members will be laid off. However, there is a pause in hiring new faculty. The budget reductions will not directly affect the number of incoming graduate students.

    Across the enterprise, faculty positions will be gradually reduced as individuals depart, retire, or are not reappointed at the end of their current contracts.

    The largest source of savings from institutional support comes from the reduction in senior management positions made in January. Additional administrative reductions will come from financial personnel and facility design and construction. Reductions in budgets for areas such as marketing will be made, and capital spending for construction and renovation projects also will be reduced.

    Madara emphasized that construction of the New Hospital Pavilion, scheduled for completion in 2012, will go forward, and the Medical Center will continue to strengthen the community health care network on Chicago’s South Side through its Urban Health Initiative (http://www.uchospitals.edu/news/uhi/index.html).

    “Even as we look for ways to reduce costs and become more efficient, we must continue to invest in cutting-edge technologies, modern facilities and strategic initiatives in order to ensure that Chicago BioMedicine can achieve its core missions,” Madara said. “Such investments are necessary if we are to continue to provide medical care of the highest quality and safety, conduct agenda-setting research, educate the nation’s finest doctors and scholars, and lead the way in biomedicine.”

    Related links:
    Reorganization FAQ: http://www.uchospitals.edu/news/highlight26.html
    Statement on emergency room care: http://www.uchospitals.edu/news/highlight12.html