Blessing Health System eliminates 150 positions ‘in response to rising business costs … and challenges specific to healthcare industry’

Blessing Health System logo.

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

“It was cold, and it was unprofessional,” Rolando said. “But it seems to follow the recent culture shift of Blessing Health System, 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 reducing the size of its organization “in response to rising business costs caused by inflation and challenges specific to the healthcare industry that are reducing reimbursement and changing patient demand for care.”

The release said most of the eliminated positions — approximately 88 — are vacant and will remain unfilled. For the remaining positions, Blessing gave staff either a severance package, offered a new position or offered a reduction of 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 himself into Blessing Hospital on Sunday night with chest pains, and he eventually learned he has a blood clot in his lungs.

Rolando had an idea something might happen when he received an email Monday night informing him of a mandatory in-person meeting on Tuesday morning with Lea Ann Eickelschulte, Blessing’s chief technology officer.

“I’ve never had that kind of meeting before, so it sounded bad,” Rolando said.

He said he sent a response to Eickelschulte’s administrative assistant, explaining that he was hospitalized and couldn’t make an in-person meeting.

“And she was like, ‘Oh, we’ll get that changed,’” Rolando said. “They ended up calling me this morning while I’m laying inside their hospital to let me go. There’s a whole script and everything they go by. It was very cold and calculated. They didn’t answer any questions, and they offered a non-negotiable one-week severance pay. That’s it.”

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

“People’s lives are affected,” she said. “Healthcare providers nationwide are facing pressures and challenges the likes of which they have never experienced. Blessing has a commitment to tri-state residents who rely upon us for their healthcare. We are meeting this challenge and upholding that commitment by becoming a leaner organization to increase our efficiency and effectiveness in delivering high-quality care in these difficult times.

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

Muddy River News reached out to Blessing officials for an interview with Kahn. Steve Felde, external and internal communication coordinator in the marketing, communication and community relations department, replied in an email, “No interviews will be possible. The statement will say it all.”

Blessing Health Systems announced Sept. 1 that it would close its hospital in Keokuk, Iowa, on Oct. 1 and focus its healthcare resources in the region on clinic-based outpatient care. A press release said the level of inpatient and emergency care demand did not support the investment required to operate a hospital of 49 beds and an emergency room around the clock, seven days a week.

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

“No explanation as to why. Just ‘Nope, we’re not having them,’” Rolando said. “So we figured something more was coming down the pike. It was kind of like when they closed the Keokuk hospital. We didn’t figure it was going to be layoffs, because we’re pretty thin already (in Information Systems).”

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

“There’s no loyalty,” he said. “I worked here for nearly five years and put in tons of extra hours every week to make sure our systems were working so our patients got the best care. It didn’t matter. (Blessing) has very much turned around into not being a healthcare organization but instead being a business. They’re worried about profits, and it shows.”

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

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