Some local retirees are up in arms at a cost-saving measure by Havre’s hospital; cancellation of a nearly 20-year-old program of traveling foot-care clinics, with the clinics now being offered only at the hospital itself.
Some 40 residents of Eagles Manor retirement home signed a letter to Northern Montana Healthcare CEO Dave Henry, asking if other parts of the budget could be trimmed to save expenses rather than the program, part of the hospital’s Senior Connection.
“The provision of the foot clinic at the Manor has been more than a convenience, it has been and continues to be necessary,” the letter says, adding that many residents cannot travel to the hospital for foot clinics due to the weather and lack of transportation.
Henry said this morning that he has been delighted with the response, and if people actually will use the service, it could continue. He said with loss of revenue such as reductions in payments of Medicaid and Medicare — Henry said the hospital has lost $200,000 in revenue in the last two years from cuts — it needs to find ways to manage its costs.
If people will come to their appointments, the traveling clinics could stay in business, he said.
“Nobody misses their hair appointment, but cancelling medical appointments seems to be much easier,” Henry said. “Well, we need to change some of that mentality, we’ve got to get people to show up when they make appointments because we have resources there to take care of them.”
A copy of the letter from the Senior Connection program was faxed to the Havre Daily News by an anonymous source. The letter says that the full implementation of the 2010 health care reform act — Obamacare — will impact how most employers will do business in the future.
“Because of the multitude of unknown factors at this time, our administrative team has the difficult decision that we must tighten our belts and decrease the services we are able to take to our customers in the outlying areas,” the letter says.
Don Mahlum, who lives in the manor, said the clinic is a necessity — he is unable to reach his feet, as is true of other elderly people on the Hi-Line. The service typically includes several other services, such as blood pressure checks, he said.
Mahlum said he regularly used the service, as did his wife before she died a few years ago.
While he can go to the hospital, many other elderly people can’t, especially if it means coming from along the Hi-Line, from Chinook, or Hays or elsewhere, he said.
Those people, if they don’t have someone to help them out, will lose the service completely, Mahlum said.
“And there are places where the budget could be cut without cutting services to old people, in my opinion,” he added.
The healthcare’s Senior Connection started the foot clinic 18 ½ years ago, and within two years had expanded to include travel to 12 locations outside of the hospital, the letter to users of the foot clinics said.
Bobbi Teasley, service coordinator at Eagles Manor, said the service is crucial for many senior citizens, especially if they are unable to reach their feet due to problems such as having had a stroke or other issues.
It also brings other services, and gives the retiree the undivided attention of the nurse — something else many seniors need, she said.
Teasley also said that many now served in the mobile clinics would not be able to go to the clinics at the hospital.
“I think it’s a huge issue all along the Hi-Line … ,” she said. “We are hoping that something can be done because they need this service. It’s not something that’s just a convenience.”
Mahlum said the residents of the manor who signed the letter are hoping they can start a drive to get the hospital to change its mind.
“We’re trying to get them to change their mind about the budget cuts to something that old people use a lot,” he said.