Blessing Health System is eliminating 150 positions “in response to rising business costs … and challenges specific to the healthcare industry”

QUINCY — Matt Rolando learned he was fired from his job at Blessing Health System while lying in bed Tuesday morning at Blessing Hospital.

“It was cold and it was unprofessional,” Rolando said. “But it seems to follow Blessing Health System’s recent culture change, which is cold and unprofessional.”

Rolando’s position was one of about 150 that were eliminated Tuesday, according to an email sent to employees on behalf of Maureen Kahn, president and CEO of Blessing Health System. A similar message was emailed to employees on Tuesday.

A press release issued at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday said Blessing Health is downsizing its organization “in response to rising business costs caused by inflation and challenges specific to the healthcare industry that reduce reimbursement and change patients’ demand for care’.

The announcement said most of the eliminated positions — approximately 88 — are vacant and will remain unfilled. For the remaining positions, Blessing gave the staff either severance, offered a new position, or offered a reduction in their current full-time position.

Rolando has worked for the past five years as a system and network administrator in Blessing’s Information Systems department. He checked into Blessing Hospital on Sunday night with chest pains and eventually learned he had a blood clot in his lungs.

Rolando had an inkling something might be up when he received an email Monday night informing him of a mandatory in-person meeting Tuesday morning with Leah Ann Eickleschulte, Blessing’s chief technology officer.

“I’ve never had a date like that before, so it sounded bad,” Rolando said.

He said he sent a reply to Eickelschulte’s administrative assistant, explaining that he was hospitalized and could not hold an in-person meeting.

“And she said, ‘Oh, we’re going to change it,'” Rolando said. “They finally called me this morning while I was in their hospital to let me go. There’s a whole script and everything they go through. It was very cold and calculating. They didn’t answer any questions and offered a week’s compensation that was non-negotiable. It is.”

In the press release, Kahn said Tuesday was “a difficult day for (the fired employees) and for Blessing.”

“People’s lives are affected,” she said. “Healthcare providers across the country are facing pressures and challenges like they’ve never experienced before. Blessing is committed to the tri-state residents who rely on us for their healthcare. We meet this challenge and maintain this commitment by becoming a leaner organization to increase our effectiveness and efficiency in delivering high quality care in these challenging times.

“As part of this work, we are also exploring options for offering new services or current services in new ways that meet changing patient demand for care and improve access and lower costs.”

Muddy River News reached out to Blessing officials for an interview with Kahn. Steve Feld, external and internal communications coordinator for the Marketing, Communications and Community Relations Department, responded in an email: “No interviews will be possible. The statement will say it all.

Blessing Health Systems announced Sept. 1 that it will close its hospital in Keokuk, Iowa, on Oct. 1 and focus its health resources in the region on outpatient clinic care. A press release said the level of demand for inpatient and emergency care does not support the investment needed to operate a 49-bed hospital and emergency department 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Rolando said he thought bad things were “looming on the horizon” when he learned last week that Blessing had canceled a series of annual staff meetings.

“There is no explanation why. Just “No, we won’t have them,” Rolando said. “So we figured something more would come up. It was kind of like when they closed Keokuk Hospital. We didn’t think there would be layoffs because we’re already pretty thin (in information systems).”

Rolando said the culture at Blessing Health System has “shifted” away from caring for employees and caring for the community.

“There is no loyalty,” he said. “I have worked here for almost five years and put in many extra hours every week to make sure our systems are working so our patients get the best care. It didn’t matter. (Blessing) has largely become not a healthcare organization, but instead a business. They care about profits and it shows.”

A list of top employers in Quincy and Adams counties on the Great River Economic Development Foundation’s website shows Blessing Health System with 2,914 local employees and 3,498 company-wide employees.

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