HealthPartners is eliminating about 200 jobs at clinics in Sartell and Minneapolis — two of the largest among seven medical offices that the Bloomington-based health system is now in the process of shutting down.
On Wednesday, HealthPartners described the closures as part of a shift toward more online health care with COVID-19, and a strategy to rethink where the health system needs brick-and-mortar clinics.
HealthPartners said in a statement Thursday that the move also responds to tough financial times for the health system, which in late 2019 eliminated more than 400 jobs through a series of layoffs.
“Like all health systems, we’ve seen increasing financial pressures — the COVID-19 pandemic certainly exacerbated that,” HealthPartners said. “That’s why we are working even harder to make care more affordable. This plan to consolidate clinical space and reduce our brick-and-mortar footprint is part of that.”
HealthPartners is the second-largest nonprofit group in the state, with about 26,000 total employees and revenue last year of $7.25 billion. The health system operates nine hospitals and dozens of clinics.
In the first quarter, HealthPartners posted an operating loss of $40.7 million on $1.57 billion of revenue. Since then, the health system’s hospitals and clinics have incurred extra costs preparing for COVID-19 patients while seeing revenue slashed by a statewide ban on elective surgeries.
HealthPartners also runs a large health insurance company. As a group, health insurers have reported positive financial results this spring because patients have been using much less health care than expected.
In Sartell, HealthPartners Central Minnesota Clinics is permanently laying off more than 130 employees. The facility is a large provider of primary care, pediatrics and obstetrics services in the St. Cloud area.
Layoffs are scheduled to start Aug. 29 and continue over two weeks, according to a filing with the state Department of Employment and Economic Development.
In Minneapolis, HealthPartners is permanently laying off about 70 employees at Riverside Clinic, a 100,000-square-foot medical office building that opened about 30 years ago. At the time, it was the nonprofit group’s specialty center and shared a campus with Fairview Riverside Hospital, where doctors admitted patients.
Now, the health system has several specialty centers across the metro. The Riverside Clinic offers everything from primary care to cardiology, hematology and oncology.
“This one really came as a big shock,” said Rae Burmeister, a laboratory technician at Riverside who is a union member with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.
Riverside Clinic is quite large, Burmeister said, with services spread across five floors. It was one of many clinics at HealthPartners that temporarily closed with COVID-19 this spring, as patients stayed away from clinics during the early days of the pandemic.
Before COVID-19, Riverside seemed to have plenty of patients, Burmeister said. “We were expecting to be going back to work there, not closing the clinic down.”
Late last year, HealthPartners eliminated 300 jobs as it shut down 30 retail pharmacies. Another 70 jobs were lost when the health system closed a home health care business, citing an expected cut in federal reimbursements. HealthPartners also eliminated last year about 75 jobs in a number of areas including information technology due to diminished revenue from Medicare health plans.