MD Anderson considers layoffs and research cuts amid financial losses

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston is considering layoffs and research cutbacks as the hospital takes urgent action to improve its financial health after significant operating losses, according to a Houston Chronicle report.  

MD Anderson recorded an operating loss of $60.9 million for October, compared to an operating surplus of $11.5 million in the same period the year prior. For the first two months of fiscal year 2017, which began Sept. 1, MD Anderson's operating losses total $102.4 million. In November, the organization's operating loss was $9 million, according to the report.

Those losses followed a 76.9 percent drop in adjusted income for the 10 months ended June 30.

In August, MD Anderson officials attributed the institution's sagging financials to various factors, including a costly Epic EHR implementation as well as a shrinking pool of potential patients due to restricted insurance coverage.

In response to its financial situation, MD Anderson is considering various cuts to boost revenue and reduce expenses. That could even include cutbacks to its vaunted Moon Shots cancer research program, Dan Fontaine, MD Anderson's executive vice president of administration, told the Houston Chronicle.

"We're going to be watching day by day the revenues coming in December," Mr. Fontaine, emphasizing they hope to avoid cutting staff. "We plan to go as long as we can before we make that decision."

For now, Mr. Fontaine told the Houston Chronicle hospital leaders are calling on physicians "to make it easier for patients to get in the door" through improved patient education on MD Anderson's offerings, as well as through loosening criteria that sometimes prevents patients from enrolling in medical trials or receiving care at the hospital.

As far as expenses, MD Anderson plans to lessen their 20,000-member staff through attrition while asking employees to limit travel and other non-essential expenses, according to the report.

Still, Mr. Fontaine noted efforts are beginning to pay off, citing the improved financial picture in November compared to September and October.

"All of those things have us heading in the right direction," Mr. Fontaine told the Houston Chronicle. "After one quarter, I've had two bad months and one better month, none of those to be considered as good months."


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