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Hospital jobs down, but sector steady

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Sunday, February 01, 2009

STATEWIDE —Planned layoffs by several Oregon health-care providers indicate that not even the state’s hospital workforce is immune to the weakened economy.


Oregon Health & Science University will cut 150 to 300 jobs, while Sky Lakes Medical Center in Klamath Falls plans to eliminate the equivalent of 60 full-time positions. Cascades Healthcare Community, operator of four hospitals in Central Oregon, recently announced budget reductions that will likely result in layoffs and program eliminations, and 20 full-time positions will be eliminated at Rogue Valley Medical Center in Medford.

But even with these layoffs, Oregon’s hospital workforce expanded by 2,000 jobs last year. And industrywide job growth isn’t expected to wane anytime soon. The number of health-care jobs is predicted to increase 27% by 2016, according to a report by the Oregon Healthcare Workforce Institute.

“Significant vacancies existed in the market prior to the recession, and they continue to exist now,” says Jo Isgrigg, executive director of OHWI.

Oregon’s hospitals have not escaped the financial crisis unscathed however. Hospitals with large investment portfolios have seen returns dwindle, while the upheaval of the U.S. bond market has left hospitals struggling to pay higher interest on outstanding debt.

Hospitals will have to reconcile an increasing amount of bad debt accrued on behalf of uninsured patients and will see a drop in patient volumes, warn several hospital executives. In anticipation of lower revenues, hospitals have tightened their operating budgets to compensate.

Attempting to stave off future layoffs, many hospitals have instituted hiring and salary freezes and created programs to retrain employees whose positions have been eliminated. Hospitals statewide are also cutting back on extraneous expenses like travel, and are renegotiating cost relationships with medical suppliers.

For now though, the growing population and high vacancy rate in health-care occupations will translate into continued job growth in the healthcare industry, says Isgrigg.                          

NICOLE STORMBERG



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There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

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This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

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