Trustees consider UI Health reorganization

exterior of the University of Illinois Hospital

“The new organizational structure would pool our vast clinical and academic resources,” says UI President Bob Easter. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services

A reorganization plan that unites the University of Illinois Hospital and clinics with the health science colleges would be implemented by early 2015 under a proposal considered next week by the university’s Board of Trustees.

In November, trustees endorsed the concept of aligning UIC’s health-related academic and clinical enterprises under a single umbrella.

The board asked President Bob Easter to develop implementation plans that included details such as lines of authority, job descriptions and other organizational issues.

Final plans for the proposed reorganization, reviewed Monday by the board’s University Healthcare System Committee, will go to the board at its March 6 meeting on the Urbana-Champaign campus.

“The new organizational structure would pool our vast clinical and academic resources in pursuit of critical, life-changing goals — advancing patient care, teaching and research discovery to serve the rapidly changing health care needs of our state and our nation,” Easter said.

Under the proposed plan, a new vice chancellor for health affairs would direct all clinical and health-related academic programs and report to the UIC chancellor.

Currently, college deans report to the UIC provost, while the Chicago hospital and clinics are administered by a university-level vice president for health affairs, a position that would be eliminated when a vice chancellor is hired.

The proposal calls for the president to continue leadership and oversight in health affairs by meeting regularly with the new vice chancellor, chancellor and provost, and the university’s chief financial officer.

A search to fill the new position would begin later this year and a vice chancellor could be hired by early 2015, said Avijit Ghosh, senior adviser to the president who helped develop the reorganization plan.

The search would be delayed slightly to coordinate with the search that will begin this spring to replace Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares when her term ends in January 2015.

Her replacement is expected to be named by fall; officials hope to give the new chancellor a voice in the vice chancellor’s hiring because the two administrators would work together closely to guide clinical and academic programs that comprise more than 60 percent of UIC’s $2 billion budget.

Easter recommended the new organizational structure after months of study that included discussions among administrators, faculty and staff; a day-long board retreat that brought in experts from around the country; and input from the Huron Group, a global management consulting company.

The reorganization has support from the deans of the seven health science colleges, campus committees appointed by Allen-Meares, the UIC Senate Executive Committee and the University Senates Conference, which includes senate leaders from the three campuses.

“This is the right move at the right time, and will position the University of Illinois as a leader in health care,” said Jerry Bauman, interim vice president for health affairs.

“The proposed reorganization structure is very sensitive to aligning the academic and clinical missions of our colleges while at the same time maintaining a sense of community as a comprehensive university.”

Officials say the new alignment would make the university’s health care enterprise more efficient amid rapid changes in the nation’s health care landscape, from new medical technologies and insurance regulations to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

“Clinical and academic enterprises have functioned independently, each with their own strategies and priorities,” Ghosh said.

“The proposed reorganization would put everyone on the same page, with common goals and a single person responsible for ensuring that we achieve them.”

The new vice chancellor would be responsible for working with clinical and academic staff to develop a comprehensive health care strategy for the university, establishing goals for each unit and working with administrators to implement them.

The vice chancellor would facilitate collaboration with other units at UIC and the campuses at Urbana-Champaign and Springfield.