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October 22, 2002

Hospital trims $1m in services

From: Fresno Bee, CA
Oct. 22, 2002

Hearing, hospice and healing arts programs among cuts at Community Medical Centers.
By Tracy Correa
The Fresno Bee

Community Medical Centers will eliminate several hospital programs in a cost-saving effort while moving forward on the largest expansion in its history.

Hospital officials announced the elimination of a hearing program, hospice care, healing arts and a home-care program for newborns and their mothers.

Most patients shouldn't notice the changes, except for patients receiving hearing services at Community's downtown Fresno hospital, said John Zelezny, Community's senior vice president of communications. Fewer than 20 positions are affected by the changes, and most employees will be moved to other departments.

Community should see a cost savings of about $1 million with the changes, Zelezny said.

The Community Hearing Center -- on the second floor of downtown's Community Medical Center-Fresno -- will shut down in early November. When the program started in the early 1980s, there were few places to go for hearing aids or hearing-aid fittings.

"Now, you can get those hearing tests at a lot of places," Zelezny said of the hearing-aid services available at sites such as Sears department stores and discount warehouse retailer Costco.

The hearing program occupies space within the downtown hospital that could be better used for other programs such as surgical services, officials said.

Four employees, mostly audiologists, work in the hearing center. Zelezny said he didn't know how many would remain with Community, which also operates a hearing clinic at University Medical Center.

Hospice Care will be discontinued and its services folded into the Palliative Care program, a division of Community's home-health program. The intent of Palliative Care, a growing trend in the hospice industry, is to ease the physical, emotional and spiritual problems that accompany a terminal illness. Hospice will be phased into Palliative Care in the next three to four months. Zelezny said he expects employees will remain, and hospice patients would continue to be served by "a merged unit that can operate more efficiently."

Community's healing-arts program, which includes a variety of services ranging from pain management to massage therapy, will be folded into volunteer services. Healing arts is staffed primarily by volunteers. Patients should not notice any changes.

Finally, the Tender Care program that began in 1998 providing physicians the option of prescribing home follow-up visits for newborns and their mothers will be eliminated. Hospital officials say the program didn't receive enough referrals from doctors to justify its existence.

"My understanding is that employees working in that area will be working in home care," Zelezny said. Community's Home Care program will serve high-risk women and babies who may need follow-up care.

Community's board of trustees approved the changes Oct. 1 as part of the proposed budget for the 2003 fiscal year. Community has made several administrative changes this year as it moves forward on the largest expansion in its history. The 58-acre Regional Medical Center, a $250 million, state-of-the-art campus, is under construction at Community's downtown site.

In June, Community eliminated six vice president positions after a review by its human resources department. In September, the hospital said it would begin a restructuring effort. At the time, officials said 40 to 50 employees would be changing positions as the hospital looked at streamlining services.

However, Community officials insist that even though some jobs may be eliminated, its hospitals continue to hire. Community has about 6,000 employees and 500 vacancies.

© 2002 , The Fresno Bee