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Independence Health lays off 53 workers

Butler Memorial Hospital Tower entrance

Independence Health System laid off 53 workers this week, Tom Chakurda, chief marketing and communications officer, confirmed Wednesday, June 28.

“These actions are a reflection of our ongoing and necessary initiatives to address and overcome the economic challenges facing both our system and the healthcare industry as a whole,” Chakurda said in his statement. “We are confident they will result in Independence Health System maintaining its position as one of the premier providers of care in Western Pennsylvania.”

According to an announcement from Ken DeFurio, president and CEO of the newly merged Butler Health and Excela Health systems, to Independence Health employees that was obtained by the Butler Eagle, the number of people affected “is less than one percent of our overall workforce of 7,300.”

In the email to employees, DeFurio wrote 226 positions have been cut since January, beginning at the executive level. The total number of staff reductions included resignations, retirements and elimination of vacant positions, he stated. Earlier this year, 13 managers were terminated from Independence Health to reduce expenses.

According to an employee, who wished to remain anonymous, multiple departments were affected, and employees who were let go interacted directly with patients in emergency care, psychiatry, physical therapy, social work and pharmacy care. These included department secretaries, the employee said.

The staff member described the atmosphere as somber as workers were called into human resources to be notified that they had been laid off. They stated that employees were told layoff recommendations were made by an external consulting firm.

Chakurda declined to answer questions on which hospital positions and departments were affected, whether an external consulting firm made recommendations for the layoffs and how many of the laid-off staff were former Butler Health and Excela workers, respectively.

“The numbers are the same systemwide; beyond that, we decline to comment,” Chakurda said Wednesday, June 28.

Reports of layoffs at Independence Health came as the credit rating for the health system plummeted to “BBB,” with Fitch Credit Agency citing “deficit operating and excess losses.”

“The analysis is straightforward and we decline to elaborate,” Chakurda said in a statement regarding the credit rating downgrade. “We remain steadfastly focused on increasing revenue, efficiencies and effectiveness across our system.”

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