Health center provost discusses restructuring plans at meeting

Joel Sawyer

Academic Health Center Provost Frank Cerra told more than 100 faculty and staff Wednesday at a town hall meeting that he doesn’t believe in laying off employees in times of trouble.
As the center continues down the restructuring path begun last June under former Provost William Brody, some faculty and staff have expressed concern over Cerra’s new administrative model. They say it looks top-heavy and are worried about potential staff downsizing.
Cerra sought to allay those fears by telling the audience that he detests a management style that stresses laying off people rather than finding other solutions. “We want to keep as much of the employee base as we can,” he said.
Cerra said a major priority for this year is to begin applying a new organizational model and hire people to fill the newly created positions of vice provost of research, vice provost of education and executive director of clinical services. Cerra said he hoped those positions would be filled by the end of July.
One audience member asked Cerra to clarify how the center would meet its goal of spending less money on administration when she counted nine new high-level administrative positions in the center’s restructuring plans.
Cerra said the center will save money on administrative costs by becoming more efficient. The center, he said, needs to automate its information systems and integrate services such as finance and space management. Human resources operations also need to be streamlined, he said.
“I think over time the administration is going to contract and become more efficient and effective — it has to. There’s no way to go into this with the expectation that you’re going to spend more money on administration than we are now,” he said.
Another key to improving the center’s efficiency, Cerra said, is to eliminate duplication of services. He cited the administration of grants as an example.
“The number of people administering grants is 6 1/2 pages — single spaced,” he said. “There has to be a better way to do that. I think that we can fix it.”
The health center, which includes the University’s seven health care schools and University Hospital and Clinics, is in the middle of a restructuring effort that aims to make the center more efficient and effective. The center is also finalizing plans for a merger with Fairview Health System, which could be approved by the Board of Regents next month.
Cerra also presented an outline of other priorities the center needs to focus on in the next year. These included pilot programs in the fields of research, clinical services and education. Priorities for 1998 and 1999 will be presented at a town hall meeting next month.
Although in the last weeks Cerra has promised center staff, faculty and students more specific details on the restructuring, little new information has been revealed.