Editor’s note: ARA provided additional context regarding its layoffs in a statement to KXAN. This story has been updated.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — “I’m disappointed, I’m sad, I’m devastated,” said Rhonda Alvarado, a scheduler at Austin Radiological Association.
You may have been referred to one of Austin Radiological Association’s 17 locations for your mammogram, ultrasound or X-Ray.
The company has been in Austin since 1954 and works with 22 hospitals across Central Texas.
KXAN obtained an email ARA’s president sent to employees on Monday, informing them of cutbacks.
“The Executive Committee of ARA’s Board of Directors initiated a reduction in force effective December 9, 2022,” Dr. Greg Connor wrote in an email dated Dec. 12.
“We recognize this is emotional for everyone, and the timing is difficult with the winter holidays coming up. However, this is a necessary step as we prepare for 2023 and beyond,” he continued. “Your leaders and I are here to support you.”
“I think it could have been done differently,” said Alvarado, who hasn’t yet gotten notice of being laid off. “They could have done it in October, they could have done it in January. But they chose to do it right before Christmas… people are devastated.”
Federal law requires companies with 100 or more workers to give at least 60 days advance written notice of a site closing and mass layoffs affecting more than 50 workers. That’s called the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act or WARN Act.
The Texas Workforce Commission said it has not received any WARN Notices from ARA or its parent company, Radiology Partners.
Alvarado estimates dozens of her coworkers have been laid off, although ARA would not tell KXAN how many employees it has or how many have been — or are being — laid off.
In his email to employees, Connor also said the company will be outsourcing some jobs to “address local labor shortages while decreasing operating costs.”
The company confirmed layoffs in an email to KXAN, saying it represented less than 5% of its support team and did not include radiologists.
Connor also attributed the cuts to several factors, including Medicare pay cuts to physicians, inflation and “an expected recession.”
“For nearly 70 years, ARA has served patients and families throughout Central Texas, and we are committed to compassionately serving every member of our community who seeks diagnoses and treatment through our team. While optimistic about our future, we also recognize the very real economic challenges impacting those who deliver patient care—both in radiology and more broadly in healthcare. ARA and nearly every healthcare organization face several external challenges, including ongoing Medicare physician pay cuts, a troubled roll-out of the No Surprises Act, cost pressures amid a physician labor shortage and market trends such as inflation, interest rate increases and an expected recession.
Recognizing these external realities, ARA took legally compliant steps to align our business with the current and anticipated environment. This included a reduction in force within our support teammate functions, not radiologists, and this represented less than 5% of our support team, which did not trigger the WARN Act. While difficult, these were necessary measures, and each affected support teammate will receive personal transition support. Going forward, we will continue our mission to transform radiology and focus on areas of the business that are critical to patient care and to supporting our radiologists and clients.”
–Gregory Connor, MD, ARA President
Alvarado and other employees who spoke to KXAN anonymously said they’re worried that will impact customers.
She explained pulling up and reading an imaging referral from a doctor is involved, with lots of notes and details to review in a short amount of time.
She said if a scheduler makes a mistake, that delays patient care since they’d have to reschedule their appointments, which are already booked a week-and-a-half to two weeks out.
“I really don’t know what it’s going to look like in the future, if the calls are still going to be holding like they are right now two-to-300, or if the calls are just going to drop because people aren’t going to come to ARA, because they don’t feel like they’re getting the same level of care and customer service and customer experience that they have been,” Alvarado said.
Connor also indicated more cuts are on the way.
“There is no immediate impact to positions, but some departmental roles will be reduced over the next year,” Connor wrote in his email to workers.
Alvarado said she expects to be one of them, and many of her coworkers are on edge.
“They’re afraid, they’re devastated. They don’t know when they’re gonna get fired,” she said.
Dr. Kaylen Silverberg, Texas Fertility Center medical director and managing partner, said they work with ARA daily.
“We’ve really come to rely on them. ARA is an outstanding group of radiologists. I mean, it’s probably the best group of radiologists I’ve ever worked with my entire career,” Silverberg said.
He said they send patients there to take a test needed for their infertility evaluation and have already seen an impact from changes at ARA.
“Our clinical director spoke with them today, and they’ve agreed to continue to offer this service but not in all of their facilities, only in a couple of their facilities,” Silverberg said.
He said they’ve gone from being able to schedule their tests within a few weeks to months.
“Now, some of our patients are actually waiting, you know, more than one or two months to be able to get in to get the procedure,” he said.
Alvarado worries it may get worse for patients with more cuts on the horizon.
“I wanted Austin to know that what they’re used to as far as getting service from ARA, it’s gone, it’s going to change,” she said.
She worries speaking out may cause retaliation and an earlier layoff, but she wanted to do so for her coworkers.
“I’m heartbroken for the people who have done this forever,” she said.