Allina Health System in Minneapolis asked 2,000 employees last week to consider participating in a voluntary severance program. The move is part of an effort to cut system overhead by 15% in 1997. Financial data from 1996 were not available, but executives said it has been a "difficult year." Allina operates 18 hospitals in the Midwest and a health plan with nearly 1 million enrollees. It employs 20,500 people. Letters were sent to employees in finance, legal and other corporate support departments, said Michael Howe, system vice president for human resources. Allina offered employees 1.5 times their usual severance package. Applications for the program are due Dec. 1. Howe said the system didn't have a target for total job reductions.
A coalition of community and labor groups has called on the California attorney general to delay approval of the merger of San Diego-based Sharp HealthCare and Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. until public hearings and studies are conducted. The Coalition for Quality Health Care was launched at a rally during the United Nurses Association of California's annual convention. The hearings and studies would address concerns about access, antitrust issues, the fair market value of Sharp's selling price and the charitable foundation to be established as part of the deal. In addition to the UNAC, coalition members include the Gray Panthers, the Service Employees International Union and the San Diego County League of Women Voters.
Two New York hospitals are preparing to shutter inpatient operations. Both hospitals became part of New York Hospital's 17-member NYH Care Network earlier this year. Jackson Heights Hospital in Queens, a unit of Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn, said it will cease operations Dec. 10. The board of 83-bed Wyckoff Heights said Jackson Heights' closure is "necessitated by a serious financial deficit." Cabot Parsons, a Wyckoff Heights spokesman, said he didn't know how much Jackson Heights was losing. Separately, Flushing Hospital Medical Center in Queens said its 195-bed Little Neck Community Hospital division will end acute-care operations Dec. 3. Stephen Mills, Flushing Hospital's president, said the closure is necessary because of "severe and continuing financial losses." Spokesman Brian R. Salisbury said Flushing is losing "above a million dollars a month," and Little Neck "is a large contributor to that amount."
Saying they're losing power to managed-care groups, podiatrists from around the nation are forming the first national labor union for doctors. "Big business has taken over the medical field," John Mattiacci, M.D., president of the new union, said last week. "In the past five years, we the deliverers of healthcare have watched our ability to control our professions usurped by managed-care organizations." The new union, the First National Guild for Health Care Providers of the Lower Extremities, will be headquartered in Harrisburg, Pa., and will be affiliated with the AFL-CIO. Leaders of the fledgling union said they expected more than 10,000 of the nation's 14,000 podiatrists to join the group, which will negotiate contracts and lobby in Washington and state legislatures.
The American Hospital Association began running radio ads last week on behalf of Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.). The Baucus ad touts his commitment to rural health issues and to "leading the fight to keep rural hospitals open," while the ad on behalf of English praises his support for an independent Medicare commission similar to the commission proposed by the AHA. The AHA will spend $10,000 in each candidate's district. According to AHA Executive Vice President Richard Pollack, the two candidates were chosen because they were "people we have worked with" and are both locked in close races. No other ads are planned at this time, Pollack added.
New York's St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center once again is engaged in merger discussions, this time with Beth Israel Medical Center and Long Island Jewish Medical Center. This summer the two Jewish hospitals agreed to create a single parent corporation (July 8, p. 18). "Yes, we are talking to St. Luke's," confirmed Marcia Kublanow, a Beth Israel spokeswoman. However, Kublanow said she couldn't provide details of the merger talks. "It's still very much in negotiations." A St. Luke's spokeswoman also confirmed the merger talks but declined to provide further information.
California Gov. Pete Wilson is preparing to file regulations that will cut funds for prenatal care for illegal immigrant women. Wilson contends the new federal welfare reform law cleared the way to enact a provision of Proposition 187, a controversial 1994 ballot initiative that would deny nonemergency medical and social services to illegal immigrants. A federal court has blocked the initiative, declaring it unconstitutional. The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and a coalition of civil rights groups have filed suit to halt Wilson's planned move, charging it would violate the court's ruling.