GHSU will lay off about 150 people

Faced with needing to increase some services while reducing other expenses, Georgia Health Sciences University will lay off about 150 people as it proceeds with integration, President Ricardo Azziz said Monday.

“We need to grow, and we are actually investing in a large number of areas,” he said, “But to do that, in an environment like ours, we have to be as effective and efficient as possible.”

About two-thirds of those – 100 – will be in its clinical system, Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics and Physicians Practice Group. Those positions either have been eliminated or probably will be in the next two weeks, Azziz said.

About 50 other positions will be eliminated over the next 30 to 60 days. About 350 vacant positions also were chopped. Azziz said he addressed the campus now because rumors of a large, across-the-board layoff were rampant.

“The anxiety level is too high,” he said.

The move would trim about 1.5 percent of the university’s 10,000 positions.

The plan was given some “urgency” by the need to increase revenue and address budget cuts the university has had and will face in the future, he said.

Gov. Nathan Deal asked state agencies to cut 2 percent of their budgets for this fiscal year and next to help balance the budget, which would be about $600,000 for the university.

The Legislature cut $1.2 million from the university’s direct appropriation for this fiscal year, and GHSU has lost about $40 million in state funding over the past few years. The health system was helped last year by $14 million in previous year revenue that will not recur this year.

There is also about $8 million more in depreciation and interest this fiscal year because of capital projects.

Azziz cautioned, however, that the move to cut personnel was not so much a result of budget cuts as to a strategic shift, building up areas of emphasis such as cancer and heart disease, and eliminating operations that no longer made sense.

“I don’t want people to get the impression that somehow this is only about budget cuts,” Azziz said. “This is about strategically deciding what you are going to invest in, and what you can’t invest in any longer.”

Most of the cuts were “distributed” across different units, he said. About half of those eliminated were in management or administrative support, he said.

“You would expect that as we leverage our integration, as we actually benefit from our integration, that administrative and management positions would be the ones that would become duplicative,” Azziz said.

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