Nebraska Medicine won’t be directly affected by state budget cuts proposed for its academic partner, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the health system’s chief executive said Friday.

Care of patients will continue without pause, said Dr. Daniel DeBehnke, with doctors, nurses and other health care providers across the system continuing to treat people as always.

But DeBehnke said the health system, like others across the country, is looking for ways to be more efficient and more ready to adjust to changes in today’s volatile health care climate. And he has some concerns about long-term impacts of state budget cuts: Nebraska Medicine and other health systems rely on the health care providers that UNMC trains to become their future workforce. Some 70 percent of the graduates from its programs end up working in Nebraska, he said.

“Our university’s an asset,” he said. “So while there’s no direct, next-week type of impact, I’m concerned about the long-term impact on the workforce and the state,” he told The World-Herald. “We’ll do everything we can to help our UNMC partner, because we’re in this together.”

Administrators last week announced potential budget cuts across the NU system intended to address recommended cuts in state funding of about $11.4 million this year and $23.3 million over the planned allocation to NU for 2018-19.

Among the cuts proposed for UNMC are the Munroe-Meyer Institute’s developmental neuroscience division and the College of Public Health’s community-oriented primary care program. Some faculty, fellows and staff would be consolidated in the College of Pharmacy, College of Public Health and the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.

DeBehnke said the proposals involve research and administrative positions. Nebraska Medicine hires the nurses and other health care providers who staff its facilities and pays physicians for the clinical component of their work, he said. Those who also conduct research receive some state compensation, he said. But if most of their work is done in the clinic, most of their compensation comes from the health system.

He said the health system is not cutting its budget. But it is realigning resources according to the five-year strategic plan it has completed over the past 18 months.

“We’re looking at the resources we have, are they in the right place to do the work that we need to do in the future,” he said.

While that might mean shifting a few employees here and there, it won’t mean large layoffs, he said. The health system instead needs to add to its workforce. With Nebraska’s unemployment rate below 3 percent, the system can’t recruit nurses and other health care providers fast enough.

But it will take continued vigilance to make sure they’re in the right place, at the same time focusing on providing value and high-quality care. With its emergency room and clinics overrun with flu patients, for instance, staff recently suggested opening flu clinics. The two walk-in locations, which opened Feb. 5 at the Chalco and Clarkson Family Medicine locations, have seen more than 200 patients. That made for efficient use of staff and facilities while freeing the emergency room for emergency care.

Julie Anderson is a medical reporter for The World-Herald. She covers health care and health care trends and developments, including hospitals, research and treatments. Follow her on Twitter @JulieAnderson41. Phone: 402-444-1066.

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