Cancer center 'surgically' cuts $20M

Posted: July 02, 2014

Under a new chief executive, Richard I. Fisher, Fox Chase Cancer Center has slashed $20 million in expenses, including millions it has long spent subsidizing researchers who didn't bring in enough external grant money to fully support their laboratories.

As a result of those and cuts in clinical operations, Fox Chase is expected to swing from a projected $17.7 million loss in the fiscal year that ended Monday to a profit of less than $1 million in the coming fiscal year, officials said.

"I believe we did it surgically," Fisher said of the cuts during a conference call Friday with bond analysts.

"We have preserved the vital programs and cut out many of the things that were archival and old and not going to be productive in the future," he said.

Job cuts totaled 57: 18 from research, 19 from clinical operations (but no nurses), and 20 from administration. "We took out the less productive people based on all the measures we had," Fisher said.

In terms of research, Fisher said Fox Chase had a history of very generous support. "We were off the curve in the amount of internal support provided for that," he said.

Fox Chase was in financial distress before Temple bought it for $84 million in 2012. Turmoil continued. The CEO was replaced, and many key doctors left of their own accord.

"We have stopped the exodus of physicians," and started attracting some new ones to rebuild the clinical operations, which have also been hurt by trends in cancer treatment that mean fewer inpatient stays, Fisher said.

Under Fisher, Fox Chase adopted a policy that all patients who call in will be seen on the next business day. Fisher said he suggested adopting a 48-hour policy, but staff decided to adopt a 24-hour standard.

The new 24-hour policy is part of an effort to eliminate the rigidity that long characterized Fox Chase, Fisher said. Doctors didn't want to see patients until all tests are done.

Stiffening competition, such as the new MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper in Camden has motivated doctors to be more flexible. "The reality is, people are staying closer to home," said Larry Kaiser, CEO of Temple Health.

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