Cambridge Health Alliance could eliminate 650 jobs

Jillian Fennimore

After already cutting a portion of its workforce and implementing a hiring freeze, Cambridge Health Alliance may have to layoff hundreds more workers as a result of drastic cuts in state funding.

The CHA will see $55 million sliced from its coffers as part of Gov. Deval Patrick’s statewide emergency budget cuts. The cuts are tacked on to the $22.4 million in other CHA reductions made to their fiscal 2009 budget.

The Harvard-affiliated health organization, which operates three area hospitals and a variety of clinics in Cambridge, is now scrambling to meet with legislators to find a way to restore some funds or mitigate the severity of cuts before making any major staffing moves.

CHA spokesman Doug Bailey said the health organization, which also manages the Cambridge Health Department, could axe 20 percent of its workforce, or 650 full time employees.

Bailey said CHA has not identified what departments or staff members would be cut, but noted the layoffs would be “systemwide.”

“We are hoping for a reconsideration once they realize the impact this could have,” said Bailey.

“We have calculated that every $10 million in cuts could translate to 120 reductions in full time equivalents,” Bailey said in an e-mail. “Essential and core services for our patients would be devastated.”

Local clinics are also in jeopardy. Earlier this week, CHA announced that it would cut medical services at the Oliver Farnum Senior Health Center in Cambridge by December.

On Monday, a roundtable discussion will be held between city councilors and City Hall administrators to discuss CHA’s strategic plan. 

Cambridge’s finances are closely connected with the Cambridge Health Alliance. In addition to the $6 million the city gives to the agency to pay for medical services and the city’s public health department, all employees at Cambridge Hospital and the eight local community clinics are eligible for the city’s pension system.