Fight Back! News

News and Views from the People's Struggle

Hospital Boss says Fight Back! is “full of misinformation”

By Fight Back! Editors

Fight Back! responds: Rice Should Resign!

To the Editor:

Joe Iosbakers's story in your Winter 2001 issue on the reorganization of physician billing services at the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center was full of misinformation about “privatizing” the medical center, and even went so far as to suggest “corruption.”

I'd like to take this opportunity to inform your readers of the facts concerning Wolcott Wood and Taylor (WWT), a university-related organization created to centralize and streamline the billing process for physicians practicing at the U.I.C. Medical Center.

For more than 10 years now, of our 21 physician groups, 17 have outsourced their physician billing through private contractors. Only four do their own billing, using staffs of university employees. Gathering all these Balkanized billing and collection services into one university-controlled organization is thus actually insourcing – quite the opposite of “privatizing.” The advantages of centralized physician billing are clear. It will improve our collections, accounting, and customer service.

WTT currently has only 14 employees, but as it grows toward its envisioned size of 80 employees, its workers may of course vote to unionize. Those four billing services currently staffed by university employees will eventually be folded into WWT, resulting in the loss of 30 (not 140) university jobs as WWT grows to 80 jobs. About eight of the 30 jobs are union positions, and we are negotiating with SEIU Local 73 regarding the effects of the transfer of these functions to WWT. All affected workers may be eligible for employment by WWT.

As for the question the article raised about my salary, national statistics show my compensation is average for surgeons serving as chief executive officers of academic medical centers. My salary, and those of all other university administrators, is approved in a public meeting of the university's Board of Trustees.

Of greatest concern to me is the article's outrageous suggestion that there is “corruption” in the operation of WWT. Corruption is a serious allegation, especially when it involves a public institution concerned with patients' health and safety and responsible use of taxpayer funds. False and reckless insinuations serve no one, including your readers.

The medical center is and will remain a public institution. A such, it does not generate “profits,” but does have a responsibility to Illinois taxpayers to generate sufficient revenues to fulfill our missions to teach, research, and serve the public. We look forward to working with the union as we strive to improve our customer service and stewardship of state resources while going forward in our core missions of educating physicians and providing the higher quality healthcare for the people Illinois.

Charles L Rice, MD

Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs

University of Illinois at Chicago


Fight Back! responds: Rice Should Resign!

Chicago IL – Dr. Rice wrote to Fight Back! to correct “misinformation” printed in the Winter 2001 issue. He pleads innocent to our charges that they are moving to privatize. He says the article written by Joe Iosbaker includes an “outrageous suggestion” that he and other bosses are profiting from the privatization of jobs at U.I.C.

Allow us to make another outrageous suggestion. Dr. Rice's job is a threat to the job security of the workers at U.I.C. He should resign.

Bosses' Profit-squeeze Leads to Job Cuts

For several years, workers at U.I.C. medical center have been fighting to save their jobs. Job cuts and threats to privatize have come about because of corporations taking over the healthcare industry. The HMO's and insurance companies are not satisfied with their levels of profit. They are demanding that hospitals everywhere lower their costs or close their doors.

Hospital bosses try to tell us that they are forced to attack us because of “the market”. We know better. They are trying to get on board the gravy train like their pals in the HMO's and insurance companies. Dr. Rice admits that his fellow bosses in “academic medical centers” have salaries similar to U.I.C.

Privatization or Not?

Privatization is a real threat to U.I.C. workers. Just last year, a plan to merge U.I.C. Medical Center with Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Hospital was beaten back.

In 1999, then vice chancellor Dieter Hausman unveiled the WWT (Wolcott, Wood and Taylor) company. When it was first presented to the Illinois Nurses Association, it wasn't just 30 jobs in billing and collection. In his master plan, WWT was to take over all business operations of the newly constructed Outpatient Care Center. He wanted to get rid of Local 73 and the civil service system in the clinics.

Nurses and workers joined with allies in the community and with state legislators like Miguel Del Valle to help stop this nightmare. WWT was beaten back as well.

U.I.C. regrouped, and came back with the repackaged WWT. Their new plan is to replace civil service, unionized billing and collections jobs in the clinics. Contracting out billing and collections is a trend around the country, because they are more profitable than other parts of the business.

If they get away with this, they'll have their foot in the door. Then they won't stop until the master plan is realized. We say no to privatization, and no to the WWT!

Two CEO's at U.I.C.

Two years ago, U.I.C. hired an evil consulting firm, the Hunter Group. They came in and called for cutting 250 more jobs. In trying to appear evenhanded, they recommended cuts at upper management levels. Their report said there were two CEO's: Dr. Rice and the director of the hospital. They called for eliminating one of their jobs.

Instead, both were given enormous pay raises. Director John DeNardo's position went from $180,000 to $235,000; and Rice went from $250,000 to $340,000. Their raises are rewards for cutting the jobs of hundreds of workers.

We share one of the Hunter Group's conclusions: Dr. Rice's position should be cut!

Job security now!Nurses picketing

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