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Union Hospital: Reducing 150 jobs was a difficult decision to make

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Ed Carne, UAP Clinic CEO, said the decision to eliminate a large number of employees was not made easily.

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“It’s one of those things that keeps you up at night. And seriously, you’re not only affecting the individual, but you’re affecting their family and you’re affecting their cohorts,” Carne said. “So, it’s a serious situation when you do this. You have to be very conscious of the humanistic value and impact.”

Reduction of staff is one of the hardest decisions an employer has to make, agrees Steve Holman, Union Hospital president and CEO. A panel of Union Health System officials answered many questions the community has during a press conference today.

“We’re a family here, we serve families. We serve individuals in the entire Wabash Valley,” Holman said. “So, saying goodbye to any of our staff is a very difficult thing.”

A letter written to employees in mid-July warned of the pending elimination of 150 jobs. Its impact was felt immediately in the community. It refers to the healthcare environment, with a shift to more outpatient services and declining reimbursement. The letter notes that the shift includes some positive impacts such as medical care that patients can access through same-day and after-hour care clinics. That shift in healthcare delivery is something all health care providers have been taking a closer look at in the last couple years, and Union Hospital officials admit they’ve had to take a more serious look at the changes in the last few months while building a “strategic plan.”

Holman said the reduction in workforce at Union Hospital is parallel to the changes in the healthcare system, throughout the country and Indiana, it’s a necessary step to continue the quality of care the hospital provides the Wabash Valley.

Officials at Union said it was a comprehensive look into which positions to cut in all services offered, with mostly non patient care employees affected.

Vice President of Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Bolinger, DO, said direct care staff is not being considered in reduction of staff at this time.

“We absolutely try not to do anything with anybody that has bedside contact with patients,” Bolinger said.

Pat Board, Union Health System CEO, said that along with national healthcare reform and advances in technology, more outpatient services have contributed to the new climate of "appropriate" care.

“They’re no longer required to stay overnight; they’re able to be sent to an outpatient setting and go home. They’re more comfortable and safer in their own homes,”Board said. He explained that many orthopedic surgeries and procedures, including hip replacements, have improved to the point they require less hospital stay.

Vice President of Human Resources Sally Zuel said staff seem to understand the need for the change. It has had a significant impact, she said, noting that they sympathize with peers who are receiving termination notices. She said the elimination of positions is an ongoing process until the end of the year.

Bolinger believes strengthening the hospital financially will mean better care services altogether.

“The intent is to continue every service line that we can continue in our own community, so you do not have to go to Indianapolis or some other community to get your healthcare,” Bolinger said, noting quality of service and safety will continue to be Union Health System priorities.

On the web: http://www.myunionhospital.org/unionhospital/

Lucy Perry can be reached at 317-527-4141 or at Lp1971@aol.com

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