Big changes, including staff cuts, are coming to the Bassett Healthcare Network.

In a statement released Friday, Dec. 11, Bassett announced the elimination of 15 leadership positions, with 41 more coming in March 2021, as it adopts a “new operating model that will pave the way for system-wide transformation.”

The release said the new model, known as OneBassett, “will allow the network to continue to be successful while adapting for the future.”

“Rather than operating as a collection of individual hospitals and health centers, this new model will deconstruct the silos and reorganize our network into a truly integrated enterprise,” Dr. Tommy Ibrahim, Bassett president and CEO since July, said in the statement. “We are moving away from hospital-centric decision-making to a system focused on the continuum of care, expanded access to services and the best possible outcomes for our patients, no matter where that care is delivered.

“OneBassett is the road map that will get us to our future state,” Ibrahim continued, in the statement. “It provides the structure for how we will work together and foster the necessary cultural shift and shared accountability for the patient’s journey through the care continuum. Ultimately, we will more effectively engage our entire workforce in Bassett’s mission to improve the health of patients and the well-being of the communities we serve.”

Though plans for OneBassett began about four months ago, Ibrahim said in a Dec. 11 phone interview, the pandemic caused by the spread of COVID-19 expedited its implementation.

“We’ve been talking about our new leadership structure and how to integrate our health care system to work as a single-delivery model and really have made great progress,” he said. “The timeline in terms of us progressing toward our integration efforts and streamlining across the system would’ve not been as accelerated had the pandemic not been impacting us the way it has. Certainly, seeing the rising number of cases across the region and within the communities helped us reconsider our timeline and really mobilize to be well prepared and sustainable.”

The release attributed the elimination of 15 leadership positions to “increasing financial and operational pressures brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Ibrahim said this recent culling furthers top-down restructuring efforts undertaken earlier this year.

“The 15 individuals that lost their positions were eliminated and provided with severance (pay) and outplacement support. No offers were made to try to retain those 15,” he said.

“Looking back to July and August, we eliminated five VP roles across the organization and, as of yesterday, the 15 other leaders fell within our directors and managers structure,” Ibrahim continued. “This really came about as we’ve consolidated leadership across each of our five hospitals and identified redundancies that we were then able to pinpoint as opportunities for eliminations. As we’ve modified our leadership structure in general, there has been some retitling that’s occurred to create a standard systemic leadership structure and, in those circumstances, some individuals were retitled. We’ve had movements up and down our layers of leadership.”

The 41 employees impacted by the March 2021 reduction, the statement said, will participate in a “new network-wide program called SCORE, Securing Career Opportunities for Redeployed Employees.”

Ibrahim described SCORE as a “really innovative approach to try to implement an internal outplacement program.”

“It’s an attempt to retrain eligible candidates into roles that we have open and available now,” he said. “It will be a way for us to continue to have them within our system. We’re going to focus on and prioritize internal opportunities for this cohort of candidates and if, in fact, we are unsuccessful in doing so, they will have similar support for outplacement services to transfer to other forms of employment.”

Ibrahim said, throughout the process, Bassett officials have been “really focused on doing things as compassionately as possible.”

“We’ve been trying to be transparent with our operating model over the past several months,” he said, “but more importantly, as these issues came to light, we’ve been working very hard to get our people through this the best we can.”

Implementation of OneBassett, expected to conclude by March 2021, Ibrahim said, will divide the network into northern and southern regions, each managed by pared-down leadership teams.

“The service areas are exactly the same,” he said, “but we’ve consolidated leadership into this regional model. The northern region will have Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown and Little Falls Hospital and we’ve gone from two leadership teams there to a consolidated single team that will support that region. Similarly, the southern region includes O’Connor Hospital, A.O. Fox Hospital and Cobleskill Regional Hospital and we’ve gone from three teams down to one.”

The network covers a region of about 5,600 square miles, Ibrahim said.

Amid the changes, Ibrahim said, patient care should remain unchanged and, in time, enhanced.

“This should not have any impact to patient care, whatsoever,” he said. “It’s really about standardizing services, so if you present to Bassett Medical Center or A.O. Fox or wherever in our system, you’re being provided with the same level of service and quality that our patients need. We’re going to be very focused on trying to bring care closer to our communities, rather than the opposite.

“Our financial performance over the past several years has not been enabling us to do this,” he said. “As a result, access has been hindered and our own service expectations have been hindered. It’s an extremely important part of the reason we need to be doing this, so we can invest in more health care services in our communities, not less.”

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