AHA lay­offs con­tinue

Four more em­ploy­ees cut in re­ces­sion’s wake

Modern Healthcare - - The Week In Healthcare - Joe Carl­son

The Amer­i­can Hospi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion con­tin­ued cut­ting per­son­nel ex­penses last week, elim­i­nat­ing the po­si­tions of four more em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing two pub­licly vis­i­ble ex­ec­u­tives who worked in pol­icy and pub­lic out­reach.

The Chicago-based trade as­so­ci­a­tion con­firmed it was elim­i­nat­ing the jobs held by Jim Bent­ley, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of strate­gic pol­icy plan­ning, and Richard Wade, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tions, both of whom have worked for the as­so­ci­a­tion for about 18 years.

An Oct. 12 in­ter­nal memo said the AHA was also cut­ting jobs held by Davon Gray, leg­isla­tive as­sis­tant, and Sharon Sales, se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tant. “I think or­ga­ni­za­tions of all types across the coun­try are deal­ing with th­ese eco­nomic is­sues,” said AHA spokes­woman Ali­cia Mitchell, who con­firmed the memo and an­swered all me­dia in­quiries about the cuts.

The four de­par­tures, ef­fec­tive Oct. 30, come amid an in­tense pe­riod of lob­by­ing for the AHA in Wash­ing­ton, where Congress is draw­ing nearer to pass­ing leg­is­la­tion to re­form the U.S. health de­liv­ery and pay­ment sys­tem. A vote by the Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee last week promised to send the re­form bill to the main cham­bers of Congress, where a pitched bat­tle ap­pears likely to take place in pub­lic and be­hind closed doors.

Be­hind the scenes at the AHA, the long re­ces­sion is tak­ing its toll. The as­so­ci­a­tion has poured mil­lions into its spe­cial lob­by­ing and pol­icy-de­vel­op­ment ef­forts, even as other op­er­a­tions are show­ing signs of strain. AHA’s pub­lish­ing arm, Health Fo­rum, elim­i­nated 11 po­si­tions in April, and all top ex­ec­u­tives took a pay freeze in 2009, Mitchell said. She could not say how much money was saved with this month’s job re­duc­tions. “All year we have been talk­ing about ways to re­duce our ex­penses,” she said. “We’ve taken many steps through­out the year, and that has off­set some of the losses to date, but the fi­nan­cial pres­sure re­mains, and the steps that were an­nounced (on Oct. 12) re­flect the eco­nomic chal­lenges we face.” The most re­cent tax fil­ings for the not-for­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion show that the or­ga­ni­za­tion posted an 18% profit mar­gin in 2008, in­clud­ing $22.3 mil­lion in profit on $121 mil­lion in rev­enue. Rev­enue from mem­ber dues grew by $2.3 mil­lion, which rep­re­sented 3% growth over 2007.

How­ever, as­so­ci­a­tion leaders said such rosy fig­ures dis­guised the true pic­ture at AHA, where the in­vest­ment port­fo­lio lost $48 mil­lion in value in 2008. (Aug. 24, 2009, p. 16). Last year alone, the AHA spent about $1.5 mil­lion on its Health for Life pol­icy ini­tia­tive, in ad­di­tion to the $2.5 mil­lion spent on ad­vo­cacy and $100,000 do­nated to the AHA po­lit­i­cal action com­mit­tee.

Bent­ley was a rel­a­tively pub­lic face of the AHA.

Wade is leav­ing the as­so­ci­a­tion af­ter about 18 years.

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