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University of Chicago hospital to trim 7% of budget

15 senior executive jobs cut; outreach, expansion said to be continuing

The University of Chicago Medical Center late Friday confirmed a massive restructuring that will trim $100 million in expenses, or nearly 7 percent of its annual budget, amid the economic downturn and unpaid bills owed the hospital from the state Medicaid program for the poor.

Initially, the hospital is eliminating 15 senior executive jobs, including vice president for community and external affairs, a position that had been by incoming First Lady Michelle Obama. Her duties will be taken over by Dr. Eric Whitaker, a friend of her husband, President-elect Barack Obama, and a long-time executive vice president for strategic affiliations and external affairs.

The hospital has yet to determine the additional job cuts but said they would not affect medical care or the South Side community outreach launched by Michelle Obama. The hospital also said it was forging ahead with plans to open a new $700 million hospital pavilion in 2012.

"The top of our list is making sure that our patients have a terrific and compassionate experience here," Dr. James Madara, the medical center's chief executive, said in an interview Friday evening. "We plan on continuing with the new hospital pavilion. Our key strategic initiative here is to have a high technology platform."

The new pavilion will span a two-block area on East 57th Street, just north of the Comer Children's Hospital and the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine in the Hyde Park neighborhood.

Once the pavilion opens in 2012, the main adult hospital building, known as Bernard Mitchell, will convert to all private rooms. Included in the new pavilion's features are 80 private patient rooms and 24 intensive-care beds on each of the top three floors. The sixth floor will house 24 operating rooms.

The medical center said it has made strides in recent years to consolidate the hospitals with the medical school and biological sciences. Madara said there has been a need to "strip out inefficiencies and duplication." The job of the medical center's head of marketing, for example, was eliminated earlier this week.

But some jobs, including Michelle Obama's position, would be taken on by others. Before taking a part-time salary of about $100,000, Michelle Obama's income from the job was more than $300,000 in 2005.

Other medical centers have cut costs or put off building or expanding facilities. Among them are Loyola University Medical Center in west suburban Maywood and Advocate Health Care, the Chicago area's largest provider of medical care. They say they have seen a downturn in patients, particularly those in need of elective surgeries and procedures. Nationwide, hospitals are seeing a declining number of patients with health benefits as unemployment continues to rise.

bjapsen@tribune.com

Related topic galleries: Barack Obama, Hospitals and Clinics, Government, Medical Services, National Government, University of Chicago, Layoffs and Downsizing

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