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OHSU cuts deeply after cap decision

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

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PORTLAND Oregon Health & Science University is planning for an estimated $150 million in cuts over the next five years following an Oregon Supreme Court ruling that eliminated a $200,000 malpractice liability cap. The cap protected state agencies and OHSU from open-ended damage awards. It doesn’t appear to be coming back anytime soon.

OHSU was already reeling from $50 million in losses from research and education costs when the Supreme Court handed down its decision in December. In January, the university, Portland’s largest private employer, announced cutbacks. It will significantly reduce unfunded research in the medicine, dentistry and nursing schools and close clinics and education programs around the state. It also will raise tuition 10% to 25%, reduce benefits for new employees and cut as many as 300 jobs.

Anything that’s losing money, says OHSU spokesman Jim Newman, is being looked at. One  example: closing or outsourcing the March Wellness Center at South Waterfront, which lost $1 million last year. However, a new educational campus is still slated to be built there in the next few years.

Because of the brevity of this year’s special legislative session, lawmakers will not be looking at reinstating a cap. Even if they did, any new limit to liabilities will still have to be tested in court, says Newman.

“We see this as a new reality for us for next few years,” he says.   

ABRAHAM HYATT


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