Fairview Health to Ax 900 Jobs
Once the company closes Bethesda Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital will become the new hub for Covid-19 treatment. Fairview Health Services

Fairview Health to Ax 900 Jobs

The company says it lost more than $160 million during the first six months of the year.
Once the company closes Bethesda Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital will become the new hub for Covid-19 treatment. Fairview Health Services

Fairview Health Services on Monday announced that it will be eliminating 900 positions as part of a broader plan to cut costs.

The cuts represent about 3 percent of the company’s total workforce, Fairview Health officials said in a statement.

The company also plans to shut down Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul, a 90-bed facility that had been converted to treat Covid-19 patients at the outset of the pandemic. The hospital was the only one in the state dedicated exclusively to Covid-19 care.  The tentative plan is to lease the hospital building to Ramsey County as a homeless shelter. Ramsey County’s board is slated to take up the lease agreement at a meeting this week.

Bethesda Hospital patients will be transferred to St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul by the end of the year. “Covid-19 care will continue at St. Joseph’s through 2021, or as long as community need requires it,” the company said.

Fairview Health will also shutter 14 other clinics in Minnesota and two in Wisconsin. Services will be consolidated at the company’s other clinics.

Hospitals across the country have been grappling with revenue losses during the pandemic. For many, the decline of lucrative elective surgeries has left a big dent in revenue.

Over the first six months of 2020, Fairview Health lost $163 million, the company said.

“While we must address our financial challenges, ultimately this is about ensuring our future as a thriving and innovative health system; one dedicated to helping and healing patients,” said president and CEO James Hereford. “To improve health outcomes and experience for our patients, we must be willing to do things differently.”

When asked about the closure of the state’s only Covid-19 hospital during a Monday afternoon press call, health commissioner Jan Malcolm said the state didn’t have any immediate concerns about hospital capacity.

“We were assured by [Hereford] that the capacity for Covid care is going to be remain very similar to what it has been,” Malcolm said. “We will continue to monitor very closely, but we are feeling still reassured that capacity is adequate.”

But not everybody is feeling reassured. After Monday’s announcement, two health care workers unions decried the planned closure of Bethesda as “short-sighted.” They also shared concern about the closure of clinics.

In a joint statement, the Minnesota Nurses Association and SEIU Healthcare Minnesota called on Gov. Tim Walz to put a hold on the closures.

“The damage that these moves will have to our community and state will be insurmountable,” said Jamie Gulley, president of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, in the statement. “This move is incredibly shortsighted, and we know it will have long-lasting effects to both healthcare workers and patients. Our state cannot afford to have this plan move forward without a much deeper analysis on the impact to our community.”

Of course, Fairview Health isn’t the only health care provider to cut jobs and roll back services during the pandemic. In late March, Duluth-based Essentia Health put 500 staffers on unpaid leave.