Marshfield Clinic Health System to lay off 346 workers, eliminate over 500 positions across network

The jobs eliminated include 500 open positions and 346 people losing current jobs
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 11:59 AM CST|Updated: Mar. 1, 2023 at 7:07 PM CST
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MARSHFIELD, Wis. (WSAW) - Marshfield Clinic Health System has announced 346 employees across its network will be laid off.

The following is a list according to the Wisconsin DWD Warn notice of affected locations and the number of employees/positions:

Colby (1), Marshfield (60), Rhinelander (1), Minocqua (11), Weston (14), Merrill (4), Wausau (14), Stevens Point (1), Stratford (1), Wisconsin Rapids (1), Woodruff (1), Hayward (2), Ladysmith (8), Park Falls (9), Caddot (3), Eau Claire (16), Chippewa Falls (5), Rice Lake (13), Neillsville (10), and Beaver Dam (47).

The WARN Notice from Marshfield Clinic Health System stated that all affected employees will be notified between March 1-15, with permanent layoffs taking effect May 19.

According to a separate statement from the healthcare system, the decision comes against the backdrop of a healthcare industry challenged by skyrocketing labor costs, higher supply expenses, and a reduction in reimbursements.

“We are not immune to the immense pressure and unprecedented challenges gripping the health care industry in recent years, which has required us to identify ways to be more efficient and more resourceful,” said Dr. Susan Turney, CEO of Marshfield Clinic Health System. “Reducing staff is always painful. This is ultimately about preserving the long-term efficiency and sustainability of our organization.”

The health system has also eliminated more than 500 positions that have been unfilled and no longer recruited. A media release stated that the move has lessened the impact on employees.

Employees, who 7 Investigates is not naming to protect their jobs, said when jobs are eliminated, those duties just shift to others there, like nurses. Staff, known as runners that take specimens to the labs or wheel patients across clinics or hospitals are now duties health staff are taking on, for example. They say in some departments, doctors are seeing as many as 50 patients a day due to staffing shortages. One told 7 Investigates they left their role because they did not believe they could live up to their oath to their patients.

The layoffs targeted what are known internally as “care delivery” and “shared services,” jobs according to an internal email from system leadership 7 Investigates obtained. Though, appointment coordinators and registered nurses were listed in the WARN notices more frequently than others.

The organization stated it has more than 12,000 employees in Wisconsin and the layoffs represent less than 3% of the system’s employee base, according to the press release. MCHS declined an interview and any further comment beyond what was stated in the press release.

The 346 jobs make up less than 3% of Marshfield Clinic's more than 12,000 employees

Last year, 7 Investigates laid out the financial challenges MCHS faced amidst departments dissolving or being eliminated. The challenges continue into 2023; on Friday MCHS took out another line of credit, with a maximum limit of $10 million. It also made changes to existing loans, changing them from fixed bank loans to bank index loans, basically putting the loans on the market with the hope of a higher return.

S&P Global and Fitch Ratings also reported their annual reviews of MCHS’s credit rating. Both downgraded the system from an ‘A-’ to a ‘BBB+.’ S&P gave it a stable outlook; Fitch gave it a negative outlook.

According to S&P, “The rating action reflects our view of Marshfield’s history of uneven performance with sizable operating losses in fiscal 2022, with expectation of ongoing lighter performance (albeit improved from 2022 levels), and a weakened balance sheet profile on a credit profile that has limited flexibility following several years of debt issuances and uneven performance.”

According to Fitch, “The downgrade to ‘BBB+’ reflects ongoing operational challenges resulting from labor and wage pressure and disruption related to a system-wide IT implementation as the MCHS continues to integrate newly acquired facilities following a period of high growth and elevated capital investment.”

The IT system Fitch references is the health system’s change over from its older and unique system patient data and billing system, ‘Cattails’ to a new system, Cerner. In several quarterly reports, MCHS notes there were disruptions in operation and revenue beyond what was expected.

Employees 7 Investigates spoke with said training on the new system was too rushed, giving overly burdened staff not enough time to learn the system before taking on full patient loads. They said doctors are weeks behind in documentation, which can cause mistakes and delays in the payment of these services.

Fitch and S&P noted that these issues with the IT system should stabilize over the year as the implementation is fully completed.

correction: A previous version of this article noted layoffs included positions in other states. The article has been corrected to state the layoffs are for jobs in Wisconsin.