Layoffs Healthcare

Layoffs continue at Ascension Health hospitals

Posted on March 06, 2018

The layoff discussions continue on our Ascension Health forum yet there has been no announcement from the health system about the growing layoffs at Ascension.

The only statement came from Ascension Michigan spokesman, Brian Taylor, when he told Crain's that the Catholic system would not be making any public announcements of personnel changes at its hospitals.

"We continually review staffing models to ensure efficiency of our resources, while providing the highest quality and most compassionate care as is consistent with our mission," Taylor said last week and repeated in a statement Thursday. "At this time, we have no information to share regarding personnel matters."

So employees are left waiting it out, searching for updates online and hoping their name isn't called. 

What do we know? 

From Crain's Detroit Business:

St. John Hospital, Detroit

Plans call for more than 250 employees to be laid off, including nurses, patient care technicians, unit clerks, patient transporters and others in medical-surgical and intensive care units, sources said.

Layoffs include 25 to 30 same-day surgery nurses, ambulatory nurses and surgery nurses with several departments like ambulatory surgery to be closed, sources said.

Two licensed practical nurses were laid off this week. Ten respiratory therapists were laid off this week along with an equipment technician of nearly 40 years service and a secretary of 30 years.

"It breaks all our hearts because some have been at St. John for years," said a St. John nurse, who asked to remain anonymous. "We have been told by managers that there will be more changes. We don't know. They tell us one thing one day and another thing the next. We are being asked to take care of a patient load that is unsafe for patients and staff."

A cardiac catheter department scan technician was laid off this week and other layoffs in the imaging department are expected. Two sources said more imaging studies are being conducted in outpatient settings and only one technician is required per scanner.

More than 40 patient transporters are expected to be laid off soon and transferred to Touchpoint Support Services, which contracts with at least three St. John hospitals for dietary and housekeeping services. This week Touchpoint, which was created for Ascension and is also owned by Compass Group, advertised for 70 patient transporters and patient sitters.

Two sources said they were told by a manager that the same would happen at three other St. John hospitals.

St. John is also cutting more nursing clerks, inpatient pharmacy technicians, occupational therapists and physical therapists.

Besides declining patient volume, one St. John employee said the manager told him one factor in the layoffs is that the reimbursement rates that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan pays are well below other insurers.

Another St. John Detroit nurse complained in an email that nearly all support staff on nursing units have been fired.

Providence Hospital, Southfield and Novi

Ascension executives in St. Louis gave the green light for Providence Hospital in Southfield to implement one of three plans to lay off nurses and unit clerks in multiple departments, said a physician leader at Providence.

At least 50 percent of the unit clerks at Providence Park Hospital in Southfield are expected to be laid off, based on seniority, said the St. John physician leader, who also requested anonymity.

Administrators and midlevel managers also will be laid off at multiple hospitals, the Providence physician said.

Each Ascension hospital in Southeast Michigan, Borgess and possibly other Ascension hospitals, will soon have only one unit clerk assigned for the midnight shift at each hospital, several sources said. Ascension is calling the staffing design "nurse-based units."

St. John Macomb

Three nurses and a total of 20 employees in the cardiac catheter lab were laid off this week at St. John Macomb, sources said. Unit clerks, patient care technicians and patient transporters are also expected to face pink slips.

Borgess Medical Center

Between 60 to 70 nurses are expected to be laid off on or before March 4, said Brown and Fredericksen, two union leader nurses. The layoffs will result in an increase in nurse-to-patient ratio from one nurse to five patients to one nurse to seven patients, they said.

Three nurses who were hired in January for the operating room were laid off Wednesday. "We are losing a lot of ancillary staff. It is already very unsafe for patients and more cuts will not help," Fredericksen said.

Other layoffs are expected include an unspecified number of nurses aides, unit clerks and patient care associates, who take vital signs, turn and transport patients to tests and other units and do some housekeeping services before discharge, the nurses said.

Brown, who is president of the union and a neurology ICU nurse at Borgess, said the nurse staffing ratios Borgess plans to put in place will make it unsafe for patients and nurses.

"They are planning on making cuts in the nursing grids and that will increase the number of patients we are to take care of," said Brown, who has been at Borgess for 13 years. "This is the most since 2013, when they cut seven nurses. They brought them back later."

Brown said reducing nursing staff will give nurses less time with patients. "We won't be able to pick up on the subtle changes in patient conditions because we will have too many patients," she said. "With nurse reductions and increasing patient care load, we won't be able to keep up. We are not a car factory."

The Borgess nurses were told by management that the hospitals have lost $9 million on operations since July 1. The hospital also has experienced a decline in ER visits, admissions and inpatient surgeries.

Fredericksen said hospital managers have told the nurses they have been doing too many non-nursing activities outside their job scope.

"We haven't had decent housekeeping. We are emptying trash, doing things we aren't supposed to do. But I can't bring another patient back if the room is not clean," she said. "Managers say they understand and are working on it. They will not budge" on layoff plans.

In her small pre-operative department, Fredericksen said there are three part-time and three full-time nurses. Management wants to eliminate two full-time nurses, or 40 percent of staff, she said.

"We won't be able to function in that capacity," she said. "We need to start IVs, begin sedation for nerve blocks. ... We can't do that if there are not enough of us."


Ascension Health touts itself as the largest the world’s largest Catholic health system and the largest non-profit health system in the US with facilities in 23 states and the District of Columbia.

With approximately 160,000 employees, it is irresponsible to not comment on layoffs that are impacting so many people within the organization. 

Many of the employees are not in the same position as Ascension CEO, Anthony Tersigni, who, according to the Wall Street Journal, received the largest nonprofit compensation package in 2017, coming in with a total compensation of $17.6 million.