700 Hospital Employees Laid Off At Ochsner Health During Nurses Week
Image: Fox8 Live
Ochsner Health, a healthcare system that operates 47 hospitals across Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, is receiving criticism after abruptly laying off 770 employees, or approximately 2% of their workforce. The layoffs occurred during Nurses Week. It is unclear how many nurses were affected by the layoffs.
Why Did the Ochsner Health Layoff Workers?
On Thursday, May 11, 2023, Ochsner Health’s CEO Pete November sent out an email revealing plans to lay off over 700 employees. The email claimed that the layoffs would primarily affect employees in leadership and non-direct patient care roles, but a number of anonymous employees have confirmed that this is not true. The email also stated that no physicians would be impacted by the layoffs.
The email did not state specifically why the layoffs were necessary, only stating, “Despite progress and our significant efforts to reduce expenses, we need to do more to ensure we can continue to deliver on our mission and meet the needs of the patients and communities we serve.”
The layoffs are expected to save the hospital system between $125-150 million dollars per year.
Hospital System Statements
In a statement, an Ochsner spokesperson blamed the poor timing of the layoffs during Nurse’s Week on a “media leak”, forcing the health system’s hand. They also denied that patient care would suffer as a result of the layoffs.
An Ochsner spokesperson also stated that they are working with more than 40 clinical employees who have expressed interest in continuing employment with the health system.
Hospital spokespeople have also reportedly stated that all laid-off employees received a severance package of full pay with benefits for 65 days.
Finally, Ochsner Health claims that any impacted employees that have active clinical credentials (such as RNs in leadership roles), will be offered a direct patient care role within the system as an alternative to termination.
State Officials Statements
Following the layoffs, Louisiana State Senator Gregory Tarver issued a letter to Ochsner Health’s CEO and COO, expressing his concerns about nurses being laid off despite system claims of a nursing shortage.
"It is very disheartening when I hear that nurses are being let go when we have heard from leaders of the Ochsner Health System during our legislative sessions that hospitals are experiencing a SHORTAGE of nurses," Senator Tarver wrote. "The situation is a bit confusing when registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and family nurse practitioners are being released from their positions, according to my sources."
Image: KSLA News12
In response to Senator Tarver’s letter, CEO November issued the following response:
"As my memo stated on May 10, the workforce reduction impacted management and primarily non-direct patient care roles. For impacted employees who are interested in continuing to work at Ochsner and have active clinical credentials, including supervisors, we began contacting them last Friday to offer a generous incentive package to move from largely administrative roles into full-time frontline clinical roles across our system. We are already working with a number of clinical employees who have expressed interest in continuing their career at Ochsner, and we sincerely hope many more choose to remain with us.
"We are evolving our structure to ensure we continue to be a strong organization with the resources to fulfill our purpose and lead the way for clinical excellence and innovation. This absolutely will not impact our ability to care for our patients and communities. We have multiple layers of nursing leadership and dedicated teams of caregivers at every Ochsner care site as patient care is always our top priority. Our patients and communities can continue to depend on us for the excellent, compassionate care they expect from Ochsner.
"Healthcare providers across America are experiencing a workforce crisis, especially in frontline nursing. We are hopeful that many impacted employees who have been in largely administrative roles will move into fulltime frontline roles, and we continue to recruit for several hundred unfilled frontline nursing roles across our system. We will also continue educating and training the next generation of healthcare workers at Ochsner so that we can continue to serve the patients of our community."
Former Employee Statements
Several current and former employees have come forward to make statements to local news outlets. However, they have chosen to remain anonymous due to fear of retaliation.
One former employee, who claims she was in a patient-facing role, said, “I was an Ochsner cheerleader, I loved Ochsner, I loved working there but now it’s really left a sour taste in my mouth. I had heard some things kind of being thrown around regarding people getting laid off, but I said, ‘Certainly not me in a clinic that’s super short-staffed with 20+ openings and I do 5 different jobs.’”
Another former employee said, “I am non patient-facing, but I also know of others. I have friends that are LPNs and RNs that have lost their jobs, as well. Non-patient employees still have just as much of an importance as those who are on the clinic floor. We are the ones that are behind the scenes that get the things that the providers need.”
This former employee also claimed that, after learning about their termination status, employees were escorted off the property by security.
Another anonymous employee said that he wished Ochsner would have offered him an alternative to termination, stating, "If they would've come to me and asked me, 'Hey can you do this part-time for half of what we're paying you right now?' I absolutely would have done it, but that wasn't even considered.”
Social Media Reactions
Instagram user @the.nurse.erica posted multiple videos about the layoffs, claiming that not only did Ochsner Health terminate nearly 800 employees during Nurses Week, but they then proceeded to cancel the remainder of Nurses Week celebrations due to “unforeseen circumstances”.
According to several commenters, nurses were among those who were laid off, despite Ochsner’s claims that those providing direct patient care would not be affected:
There are currently no posts mentioning the layoffs on any of Ochsner Health’s social media pages. Commenting abilities are currently disabled on Ochsner Health’s Instagram page and limited on their Facebook page.