A worker asks Federoff (right) tough questions. Photo by Gabriel San Roman / OC Weekly
A worker asks Federoff (right) tough questions. Photo by Gabriel San Roman / OC Weekly

By Gabriel San Roman

UC Irvine Medical Center workers in Orange are still tense a week after the start of a massive layoff of 175 positions. Dr. Howard Federoff, CEO of UC Irvine Health, delivered a statement on the “Operational Transformation,” as the staff slash retooling is being deemed, promising town halls to address the decision. Medical center workers packed an auditorium on-site yesterday afternoon, ready to hear what the head honcho had to say.

“We took an action that has had, in the minds of many, a negative impact on how we are perceived as a community,” Federoff said. “I feel terrible because we have had to let go a small number of individuals, 175 who had been at this medical center and contributed to its success.” Federoff explained that back in 2010, the Affordable Care Act—better known as Obamacare—called on states to decided whether to expand Medicaid and that California is one that followed through.

UCI Medical Center is the only academic facility of its kind in OC and since there are no county hospitals, they must take in Medicare patients that don’t generate revenue. Taking on the role of the Great Explainer, Federoff continued that UC Irvine Medical Center faced competition from community hospitals that didn’t have any teaching and training responsibilities to usher in the next generation of clinicians. UC San Diego was invoked for reasons of comparison on how UC Irvine Medical Center could be more financially efficient.

After a commissioned study, expenses had been charted to exceed revenues at the end of the 2017 fiscal year and to avoid that fate, administration called in the cutbacks. “It was in the framework of leaving no stone unturned, [that] we turned, finally, to the most challenging and difficult part of this analysis, which was to look at the labor component of our institution,” Federoff continued. “I can tell you without any equivocation that it was absolutely essential for our future to do this.” Flanked by two blue banners showing UC Irvine Medical Center having an “A” rating for best hospital safety score and 90 percent patient satisfaction, Federoff stressed the necessity to maintain quality care.

The CEO, who was brought in this January, admitted that administration needed to improve on communication regarding the layoffs. Sensing the anxieties in the room, he opened up the town hall to questions from the audience. “I know that the next 45 minutes or so is going to be really quite interesting,” he said. The audience nervously chuckled.

Union workers from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299 asked tough questions about how a smaller, overworked staff could provide the best care to its patients. Federoff adjusted by asking people to identify themselves and where they work, eliciting laughter from the crowd who saw through the comment.

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[Source]: OC Weekly