October 19, 2019
Midcoast Latest News | Bar Harbor Council | Bangor Metro | Maine Amendment | Today's Paper

Job cuts expected at major Belfast employer

Jenny Kane | AP
Jenny Kane | AP
A logo for athenahealth is displayed on a computer in New York, Nov. 12, 2018.

Medical software company athenahealth Inc., with about 900 employees at its Belfast campus, announced Tuesday morning it would undergo another round of layoffs.

A spokesperson for the company confirmed that less than 4 percent of the total workforce would be affected by the layoffs, but did not release the number of people affected overall or detail how many people would lose jobs at various locations, including Belfast. Last year, there were reportedly 5,000 company employees in total. She did say that there are no plans to close any offices.

A Belfast employee who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of professional repercussions, said Tuesday morning that at least dozens — and perhaps more — jobs would be cut in Maine.

An internal announcement had just gone out, the employee said, but it was unclear exactly what would happen at the Belfast campus.

[Subscribe to our free morning newsletter and get the latest headlines in your inbox]

According to a statement issued Tuesday by athenahealth, the company is reorganizing because of its recent merger with another health technology company.

“As with any large transaction of this size, there are overlaps in functional areas,” the company statement reads. “While we’ve had to make some difficult decisions, we have implemented a new organizational model that enables faster decision making, decreases bureaucracy and consolidates capabilities so we can best deliver value to the 160,000 providers on our network.”

The 20-year-old Watertown, Massachusetts-based company is one of the midcoast city’s largest employers. Last year was a tumultuous period for the firm, which endured the removal of Jonathan Bush, its longtime chief executive officer and co-founder. He left the company last June after revelations about his past, including a years-old domestic violence incident, according to Bloomberg News.

Following Bush’s departure, stock market investors “wrangled” for control of the 5,000 employee company, after it had been purchased for $5.7 billion by two New York private equity firms, according to Bloomberg.

Athenahealth then merged with Virence Health, a Seattle-based health technology company that recently had been spun out from General Electric, Bloomberg reported.

In Maine, athenahealth employees work in office buildings that originally had been built by credit card giant MBNA. The medical software company opened there in 2008, with an initial promise to eventually hire as many as 700 workers who would help the company build a “health care internet” with a goal of allowing doctors to easily access health records across the system and easing the insurance claims process.

[Athenahealth will sell to private equity firm for $5.7 billion]

The business model was successful, and athenahealth eventually hired about 950 workers in Belfast. Last year, company officials told the BDN that the ultimate goal is to get big enough to fix inefficiencies in health care and insurance industries.

“That is a really bold thing to say, and also incredibly complicated,” the vice president of customer operations, Jonathan McDevitt, told the BDN last March. “There are so, so many areas of inefficiency in health care and just how our system evolved over the past 70 years or so, and it’s just going to take a long time to fix it.”

But there have been previous ups and downs for the company. In 2017, athenahealth announced it would lay off about 500 workers throughout several sites, including Belfast, a number that totaled about 9 percent of its workforce.

Although some in Maine were concerned then that this could be the start of a decline for another major local employer, company officials said it was a hiccup and they would be in Belfast for the long haul. However, the 2017 layoffs had a harsher impact in the company’s home city than in Belfast.

 



Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

You may also like