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Chicago health system to cut 335 jobs

In an effort to save $60 million, Cook County Health and Hospitals System officials are cutting 335 jobs and eliminating 700 vacant positions.

Calling the job reductions an "employee rebalancing effort," the Chicago-based public health system said some of the cuts are part of the FY2009 budget, which ends Nov. 30, and the remainder are part of FY2010.

The job cuts, already approved by the health system's board, are mostly in support staff, such as food service workers and building maintenance, and will occur at all CCHHS facilities. The number of patient care providers will be reduced in areas where the patient population doesn't support staffing levels, such as OB/GYN.

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Employees began receiving layoff notices Wednesday.

William Foley, the health system's CEO, said the reductions are expected to save about $60 million.

"When the Cook County Board of Commissioners established the independent health system, they required us to undergo a performance improvement assessment study," he said. "We have completed that study and found that there were some areas that needed adjustments in staffing. This is a rebalancing effort to make sure that we have the right amount of people in the right place at the right time to make sure our patients are getting the quality care they deserve."

Chicago-based Navigant Consulting helped conduct the improvement assessment by comparing staffing levels at CCHHS with similar hospital systems locally and nationally. According to Foley, Navigant identified areas that were overstaffed or above the industry norm and presented its findings to CCHHS management as a recommendation.

"We are aware that this will have a serious impact on our employees and are working to make this transition as smooth as possible given these difficult circumstances," Foley said.

CCHHS oversees an integrated healthcare system that extends throughout Chicago and suburban Cook County and includes hospitals, ambulatory and community health network clinics, a public health department, a correctional healthcare facility and an outpatient infectious disease center.