by CHRIS ROGERS
Winona Health laid off 17 employees last month, and announced other staffing reductions in an effort to reduce costs.
“In addition to our ongoing organization-wide effort to decrease operational costs through continuous system improvement, we have determined the need to further reduce costs through the elimination of some positions,” Winona Health CEO Rachelle Schultz wrote in a statement. “These are among the most difficult decisions any organization can make, and they are made with heavy hearts. We know these changes are difficult for individuals and their families — and for coworkers, as well.”
In addition to the layoffs, 25 currently vacant positions were eliminated, some upcoming retirees will not be replaced, and the hours for other positions were changed, according to the statement. Winona Health spokesperson Karen Sibenaller declined to comment on what positions were eliminated.
Winona Health leaders explained that reductions in reimbursement rates, demographic changes, and insurance pressures contributed to the organization’s need to cut costs.
Like other nonprofits, Winona Health’s tax returns are publicly listed on charity accountability websites, and according to those returns, 2016 — the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, and the latest for which financial information is available — was the first year in over a decade that Winona Health lost money. From 2005-2015, the $115-million-a-year organization brought in net incomes of around a few million dollars each year, and its net assets grew from $40 million in 2005 to nearly $70 million in 2015. However, in 2016, Winona Health Services’ expenses exceeded its revenues by $3 million, and its net assets declined slightly, to $69 million.
“I understand why; I understand the decision,” one former Winona Health employee, who requested that her name not be used, said. “The day that it happened, I’m sure nobody was happy. It was a shock to me,” she added. However, the laid-off employee said she had good prospects for the future and she was not wasting time feeling sorry for herself. “Was it easy? No. Was it fun times? No. But unfortunately this is part of life now,” she stated.
Winona Health provided a severance package to laid-off employees, and Schultz said the organization tried to look for opportunities to transfer those employees to open positions.
“Health care organizations across the country are facing similar financial pressures and many are reducing costs,” Winona Health officials wrote. “There is nothing easy about these changes,” Schultz stated. “Winona Health has a resilient 125-year history, and we are responsible for ensuring that we are here to provide high quality, high value care for our community into the future. We will continue to hire for needed positions or new positions that align with community and organizational needs.”
Winona Health is one of Winona’s largest employers, and still employees over 1,000 people.