Dozens more jobs will soon be eliminated at Adventist Health Bakersfield as the Chester Avenue hospital continues an outsourcing drive that has affected about 175 positions at the medical center since April.
About 40 workers in the division known as patient financial services have been told their positions will be cut in the first or second quarters of next year, though some may be rehired in Missouri. An additional 20 employees would have been affected but they found other jobs within or outside the hospital.
The affected employees do not include 13 to 15 lab assistant jobs being cut at the hospital effective Nov. 16, or the undisclosed number of local positions lost last year and early this year as Adventist cut some finance and human resources functions in Bakersfield. Fewer than 10 local workers eventually transferred to the company's headquarters in Roseville.
One result of the upcoming personnel reductions is that, starting no later than the middle of next year, Adventist patients wishing to speak with someone about their bill will be told to call a customer service center based in Missouri instead of speaking with someone face-to-face in Bakersfield.
The cutbacks reflect the difficult financial pressures hospitals and health systems face as they make their way in a fast-changing business climate.
"I think as health-care organizations are continuing to meet the demands of the environment that we work in, that we operate in, we always have to balance, you know, whether or not changes need to be made and/or the ability to expand our mission to allow us to continue to serve more people in the community," Steve Chen, chief financial officer at 254-bed Adventist Health Bakersfield, said in a phone interview Wednesday.
He said the ongoing staffing cuts are unrelated to Adventist's plan to open a new hospital in northwest Bakersfield in 2024.
While the jobs that moved to Roseville are part of a consolidation and centralization strategy, the layoffs coming next year stem from Adventist's decision to outsource billing and collection operations to Cerner Corp., a North Kansas City, Mo.-based seller of health information technology products and services.
Adventist informed state officials Feb. 5 it planned to lay off 177 employees effective April 1. But the vast majority of those positions were immediately picked up by Cerner and allowed to stay working at the hospital doing basically the same work.
Cerner has invited those whose positions are being eliminated next year to apply to work at the company's Missouri headquarters. Chen said it was unclear how many will find jobs there.
Cerner has reported having 26,000 employees serving 27,000 health-care facilities around the world. Adventist has 19 hospitals across the western United States.
The roughly 170 former Adventist employees who were hired by Cerner earlier this year were given the same pay but their health insurance premiums doubled, said an employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak with the news media and feared being fired.
This person also said that anyone now working at Adventist in Bakersfield who hopes to find a job at Cerner in Missouri will have to compete for a job against many others in the same situation at other Adventist hospitals across California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington.
"You have an office full of angry, angry people. Angry. We feel betrayed. We are hurt," the person said.
It was a similar hiring process when HR and finance positions were cut, the person said: Employees had to apply for jobs in Roseville in competition with workers doing similar jobs at other Adventist hospitals.