Hill Health Readies 29 More Layoffs

Facing a projected $3 million operations loss, Hill Health is preparing for 29 “quick and quiet” layoffs.

Those details emerge from the minutes of a meeting of the Cornell Scott Hill Health Center’s finance committee.

Hill Health, which has about 450 employees and runs 16 community health centers in and around New Haven, faces dire financial difficulties. The organization’s CEO recently resigned on the heels of an investigation into allegations of mismanagement.

The finance committee minutes from last month’s meeting amount to a staggering list of bad news heaped upon worse news. The minutes indicate that Hill Health has decided to layoff 29 workers. One board member was assured at the meeting that the layoffs would be “quick and quiet.”

Hill Health interim CEO Michael Taylor did not return a call for comment by press time.

Hill Health laid off 25 workers in February of this year, after 30 layoffs in May, 2011.

Some highlights, or low-lights, of the meeting minutes:

• Projections indicated that Hill Health’s “bond covenants would again be in default, which would make for two consecutive quarters in which we would be in default.”

• Hill Health’s “net deficit from operations is $516K and, if annualized, we would be on track for a $3M loss. G. Austin [Grace Austin, interim CFO] stated that if we continue on this pattern, it could be the third year in a row of significant losses, which could jeopardize our funding status primarily with HRSA [the federal Health Resources and Services Administration] and other grantors.”

• Austin told the committee that Hill Health is suffering grant losses of $120,000 (”$1M annualized”). “G. Austin stated grants are about 20 percent of our business and that last year there was a $900K loss in grants and noted we’re on track for another loss.”

• Hill Health’s pharmacy department has had a loss of $1.1 million. The ear, nose, and throat department is losing $250,000. The labs department has lost $562,000. As of the end of November, Hill Health’s cash flow will be $500,000 in the red.

In one glimmer of hope, the minutes state that the Department of Social Services (DSS) verbally agreed to advances of $500,000 per month for four months.

DSS had initially stated a preference “that there be no layoffs,” the minutes state. DSS later requested that Hill Health “handle the reductions in an incremental and departmental basis based on a profitability standpoint and right-sizing the organization,” according to one board member.

“G. Austin responded that the 29 layoffs still have to occur,” the minutes state. “A. Lobo stated that DSS requested that we not have a massive layoff. L. Kaufman inquired if it was going to occur quickly to which M. Taylor and A. Lobo agreed that it will be quick and quiet.”

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posted by: Shanti on December 7, 2012  5:26pm

“Quick and quiet” - that says it all, doesn’t it. Why quiet? So the already demoralized employees can’t organize for a decent work environment or even defend themselves? (I am not talking union shop here - I am pointing to the real issue of employee morale.)

Shame on this administration—Mr. Taylor, Dr. McNamee, Ms. Lobo, and of course, Ms. Henderson—as well as the board, who neglected BLATANT mismanagement until it was regrettably late.

The greatest element of this community health clinic is its staff.  They are the heart and soul of it, and have endured far too much, for far too long.

NHI, I expect more of you. Your articles don’t even bother to tell the other side, let alone challenge what administration says. How about an anonymous interview with one of these demoralized employees?

Attention, Hill Health board: getting rid of Henderson is NOT enough. The toxic work atmosphere persists.  The employees continue to endure bullying and punitive measures DESPITE the fact that THEY have held this clinic together by continuing to deliver the healthcare their community needs and deserves.

posted by: anon123 on December 7, 2012  9:26pm

The Unions should be standing outside the door of Hill Health. The only thing managment did in the past three years was fatten their own wallets. Shame on them.

posted by: FrontStreet on December 8, 2012  12:18pm

And I wondered to a co-worker the other day, as we talked about how bad it is at our work-place, The Cornell Scott Hill Health Center, was it really so bad 3 years ago, just after Cornell Scott died and Gary Spinner was asked to resign as COO of CS HHC, that Henderson and Taylor felt the need to gut the organization and try to re-build, in terms of management and structure?  “No,”  my co-worker, who has good knowledge of the inner workings and politics of the organization, “we were in the black, our services were expanding, and we were slowly, painfully adjusting to changes in health care before Henderson and Taylor arrived.”

What Henderson and Taylor have wrought on the CS HHC is criminal.  Truly.  If the NHI only knew the extent of the irresponsibility

posted by: anotheropinion on December 9, 2012  12:37am

Shanti- your comments are really on target.  The actions of senior leaders over the past three and a half years have really devastated what was a thriving community organization.  And you are so right to hold the Board accountable for what they allowed to happen. Board chair Andrea Jackson Brooks should also resign. She has controlled the board for too many years. The staff are the heart and soul of the organization. They are entitled to be heard and the patients deserve better.

posted by: Justkeepingitreal on December 9, 2012  6:16pm

Many were witnesses of the former leader displaying poor traits such as favoritism, humiliation, bullying, arrogance and failure to listen.  Many employees were subjected to this treatment including senior leaders.  Kudos to the board and Ms. Jackson Brooks for stepping up to the plate and doing what was right!  Perhaps Shanti was right maybe a tad too late - but better late than never.  A lot of damage has been done in the last 3 years.  We employees brave enough to weather the storm and stay on board as a result of our commitment to the Center and its patients have the gruesome task of cleaning this mess up!  We should all give our best daily.  And let’s give the management a chance to prove themselves.  Leaks like this do nothing for morale.  Especially when half truths are being printed.

posted by: anotheropinion on December 10, 2012  7:31am

Justkeepingitreal- Let’s get real.  Your praise for JacksonBrooks and the board of directors for taking action after 3 and a half years of mismanagement makes me wonder if you would praise a fire chief and its department for standing around and watching your house burn for so long.  “better late than never”?  A board is charged with governing to make certain that the senior leader carries out its mission.  To fail to do that fails the community and the patients it is charged to serve. The leaks you suggest stopping probably forced the board to finally take action.  Let’s get real.

posted by: Curious on December 10, 2012  12:05pm

A suite of offices on the second floor of the Connecticut Mental Health Center are being refurbished to be part of Hill Health Center.  What’s the story behind that?

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 10, 2012  2:13pm

Can Blame the unions for this.

posted by: Justkeepingitreal on December 10, 2012  11:17pm

Another-since we are keeping it real it’s not the fire department and Ms Jackson Brooks is not the fire chief.  And by the way - wrong again!  The leaks didn’t force the boards hand.  It was the courageous complaint of the former CFO, another one of Ms. Henderson’s victims, that caused the board to react.  Yes perhaps later rather than sooner but at least they did not look the other way.  I agree it was a tad too late as frontstreet references above and after the loss of many committed employees such as Charlie Rose, Gary Spinner, Dr Michels and Nancy Navarretta. But it’s still better late than never, because if never - never came the doors would soon be closing under Henderson’s leadership..  Yet there is still hope.  So yes the leaks are destructive.  And disrespectful to the many fine employees who come to work everyday and work hard for the community, the patients and the legacy of Cornell Scott.  You seem to know a lot about board duties…. Huummmm… “Governing”. .....really?  why not apply to the board?  There are probably vacant seats and maybe right up your alley ....on the GOVERNANCE committee!!!

posted by: ItsNotRight on December 11, 2012  12:48pm

Budget 101 - never ever pay a secretary as much, if not more, than Management & MDs. Is this a non-profit organization or a hedge fund?

posted by: tax_payer on December 11, 2012  11:42pm

The state is going to advance $2 million to a company that overpays it’s management, when the state is in a major fiscal crisis???? Something doesn’t smell right here (again) - what would someone have to gain by leaking this information?  Does this information even make sense?  How could the pharmacy department lose that much money?  I question the accuracy of the information provided by the insider.  If the numbers are that bad and bond covenants are being blown, what are the bond holders waiting for?  Are the numbers even correct?  There is a lot of bad listed in this article, what is being done to stop the bleeding?  Seems like another badly run place getting a bailout.

posted by: FrontStreet on December 12, 2012  12:24am

The article gets some things right and a few things wrong.  As I understand it, the latest round of lay-offs will be much less than 29 (maybe 8 or so).  The cloud that has been hanging over Hill Health for the past year or so is its inability to make payments on the bonds it takes from the state.  If it misses too many payments, then the state steps in to take over management (Hill Health is a private, not-for-profit corporation).  Thus the negotiations with the state of CT and the present financial arrangement.  Why has it been missing bond payments?  Management says providers have not been seeing enough patients.  Providers say management makes too much money and hasn’t been billing correctly for services provided.  A universal problem in community health is the large no show rate.  If you miss your appointment with a private practice provider, they bill you anyway.  No such penalty in community health, which creates chaos in scheduling and budgeting, as no show rates can reach 50 - 60%.  It’s not easy and bad management makes it much much tougher.

posted by: SteveOnAnderson on December 12, 2012  11:45am

Thanks to commenters like Shanti for more information. I really hope the NHI puts more effort into covering this issue. It’s been great that there has been significant coverage of the MLK-Amistad deal, but that seems to have pushed this issue to the back-burner. Like anon123 says, unions & allies in the city should be on this, too. I’m particularly concerned about the possibility of Yale or its proxy (WinStanley) acquiring this property. I hope there is further coverage of these layoffs and the future of Hill Health!