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UC Irvine Health laying off 175 employees

UC Irvine Health began laying off 175 employees this week as part of a plan to ensure efficiency of its medical center's clinical and educational operations, the university-based care provider said.

Those being let go — many of whom are in management or administrative and support positions — are being notified individually, according to UC Irvine Health spokesman John Murray. The layoffs will not include faculty, which includes doctors, he said.

"The layoffs are part of a multipronged approach to improving the health of the system," Murray said. "Before considering the layoffs, we looked for opportunities to reduce expenses as well as maximize potential revenue."

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According to Murray, workers being let go will receive a severance package depending on various factors, but human resources has indicated the baseline will be one week's salary for every year of service.

Staff was informed of the layoffs through an email Monday from UC Irvine Health's chief executive, Howard Federoff, who was appointed in January.

His message stated that previous expense reductions and increased revenue through the growth of the organization's clinical services have "not been enough to avoid reductions in staff."

Expenses would outpace revenue this fiscal year unless immediate action is taken, he wrote.

"This decision was not made lightly, but proved necessary for the long-term health of our enterprise," Federoff wrote. "Despite being faced with tough choices and financial imperatives, our patients must and will remain at the center of every decision we make."

But Todd Stenhouse, spokesman for Local 3299 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a union that represents technicians, assistants and other service workers, said: "They do not have a profit problem. What they do have is a staffing problem."

Before the layoffs began, UCI Medical Center in Orange had about 4,930 staff members.

In the spring, Stenhouse said, the union distributed a survey to 5,000 service and patient care workers at the five University of California medical centers in which 91% said their departments were chronically understaffed. Hundreds of the respondents were at UCI Medical, Stenhouse said.

Murray countered that the center meets "all staffing ratios as the state requires and sometimes exceeds them."

More than 2,270 of Local 3299's 2,798 members work at UCI Medical Center and its affiliated clinics. The layoffs are expected to affect 68 of those workers, some of whom have as many as 30 years of service, Stenhouse said.

"It's been long said that healthcare delivery is a team, and it certainly is at a clinical level and a frontline level … this move erodes that team," Stenhouse said.

According to Murray, academic medical centers have to provide much more expensive services, such as research and residency training, than community hospitals.

UC Irvine Health is looking improve operational efficiency mainly through renegotiating contracts, generating revenue and reducing staff and expenses, Murray said. The target is to generate about $40million through revenue and savings the remainder of the fiscal year, he said.

Job cuts will not occur at the other UC medical centers at San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Davis.

"Nothing that happened here is affecting the other sites," Murray said, adding that the five medical centers in the UC system function independently.

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Alex Chan, alexandra.chan@latimes.com

Twitter: @AlexandraChan10

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