Ascension hospitals pledge 549 more service center jobs

Even though St. Louis-based Ascension Health cut nearly 900 jobs this year from its Indianapolis-based hospital subsidiary, St. Vincent Health, it wants to add 549 more to its service center here by 2016.

The new jobs were announced Wednesday by Gov. Mike Pence as part of a year-end round of incentive deals for expanding companies.

Ascension, the largest Catholic hospital chain in the nation, opened its service center in Indianapolis in June 2011, and has hired 500 people since then. The service center workers perform human resources, purchasing, bill payment and supply chain management for all of Ascension’s hospitals and hundreds of its other health care facilities.

As part of the expansion over the next three years, the service center will provide support services to the entire Ascension chain, which includes 150,000 employees at more than 1,900 different locations spread over 24 states and Washington, D.C.

“With Indiana's private sector growth far outpacing the national average, our message is resonating as more companies than ever are choosing Indiana for growth,” Pence said in a prepared statement.

To accommodate the expansion, Ascension said it will need another 30,000 square feet to 50,000 square feet of office space, which it believes it can find in its existing location at 4040 Vincennes Circle or in other offices Ascension already owns.

Those other offices certainly have some room after St. Vincent cut 865 workers at the end of June. The staff cuts, which represented 5 percent of St. Vincent’s total Indiana employment of 17,300, were brought on by lower-than-expected patient volumes, Congressional budget cuts and slower-than-expected growth in reimbursement rates.

St. Vincent’s announcement was the first of several by Indiana’s largest hospital systems. In October, Indiana University Health eliminated 935 positions. And in October, Franciscan Alliance cut 925 positions.

Also, Community Health Network has laid off more than 150 workers this year in what the hospital system calls a “realignment.”

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Ascension up to $4.8 million in conditional tax credits and up to $200,000 in training grants, if Ascension adds all 549 jobs it has promised.

When Ascension announced it would open the service center in 2010, the state promised up to $5 million in performance-based tax credits and up to $90,000 in training grants in exchange for the 500 jobs. Those jobs were predicted at the time to pay salaries between $36,000 and $40,000.

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