Health program at Marshfield Clinic cut along with 45 nursing jobs

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A program designed to help patients understand their health care is coming to an end at Marshfield Clinic Health System, affecting 45 nursing positions and hundreds of patients across the system.

The Health Care Coordinator program has been around for three years at Marshfield Clinic. But executive director Brian Ewert, MD said after years of service, funding is now limited and by the end of May, the program will be cut along with the jobs of 45 nurses. He said clinic locations range from Minocqua to Marshfield, Wausau, Ladysmith, Eau Claire and other area cities.

Gerald Junk, a patient who goes to the Ladysmith clinic, said that's devastating not only for the nurses but also for the growing number of patients who rely on their help.

“About two years ago, I was asked to join the program and over the years it's helped me with everything from understanding the results of lab results from a doctor’s appointment to dealing with medical supply companies and such things,” said Junk. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1966. Since then, he said his conditions got worse.

Junk said his coordinator, a longtime RN at Marshfield Clinic, has helped him through thick and thin. He said he believes health care coordinator program is important for the growing number of elderly people and those choosing to live at home. With his complex medical issues, he said it can be overwhelming.

“Sometimes, you just need someone that understands to be able to talk to and just to give you a word of encouragement and Heather has always been able to do that for me and it’s hard to go it by yourself sometimes.”

Ewert said the health care coordinator program was designed to improve the quality and value of care among patients. But the programs require financial stability.

“The reason this particular program out of all of them that we have done is being brought to completion is because the cost of providing this service was born solely by the clinic,” said Ewert.

He said patients like Junk will now have to talk to their primary care doctors to sort through any health care confusion they may have.

“This was a program that had been established to augment primary care, so with the care coordination program coming to completion, the primary care of these patients continues to be the focal point of how their care is organized,” said Ewert.

Security Health Plan patients from Marshfield Clinic will be able to get health care coordination through Security Health. The partnership company had continued to do health care coordination while Marshfield Clinic took on the role three years ago and now will add around 450+ patients to its health care coordination program.

As for the 45 nurses who will lose their position by May 30th, Ewert said they’re great workers and professionals who Marshfield Clinic will help with workforce.

He said for those who worked a certain period of time, they'll get a severance package. These nurses will also get preferential treatment next time a position is open and they'll also get to carry their seniority status.

“The reason the program came to a conclusion had nothing to do with them personally because these are top notch professionals. The reason has to do with the sustainability of the program .and so we do everything possible to help our employees through this transition.”

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