Amid the coronavirus outbreak, Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood and West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park, Ill., have cut workers.
Pipeline Health said in a statement today that a total of 52 hospital employees—most of whom are in support or administrative roles—were laid off March 6.
The cuts come as public health experts issue warnings about "surge capacity," including the availability of ventilators and intensive care unit beds.
"During this time of crisis, Weiss Memorial Hospital stands prepared to care for all our patients, including any who may present with COVID-19 symptoms," according to the statement from Pipeline, which last year shuttered its Melrose Park facility. A company spokesman said West Suburban is also prepared to care for such patients.
The Los Angeles-based hospital operator noted that the layoffs are due to a total of $15 million in outstanding Medicaid claims.
The state agency that oversees the government-funded health insurance program for low-income people in Illinois said in an emailed statement that "this administration has been ensuring that Medicaid payments are made as soon as possible."
Hospitals that treat large numbers of patients on Medicaid, which pays less than Medicare and commercial insurance, have said late payments threaten their operations.
According to Pipeline, 30 percent of patients at 236-bed Weiss and 41 percent of patients at 234-bed West Suburban are on Medicaid.
But the hospitals continue to grapple with rising health care costs and dwindling inpatient volumes. Weiss had a $1.2 million net loss in 2018, while West Suburban reported net income of $1.4 million, according to Modern Healthcare Metrics.
Pipeline bought Weiss, West Suburban and now-shuttered Westlake Hospital from Tenet Healthcare for a total of $70 million last year.
This article was originally published in Crain's Chicago Business.