The world-renowned Menninger Clinic continues to cut staff, scuttle local programs and consolidate services as it struggles to find a new partner in the wake of its failed marriage with the Baylor College of Medicine and Methodist Health Care System in Houston.
But the psychiatric clinic, an international leader in mental-health services for decades, is still very much in business at its longtime home on a campus hilltop in Topeka, Kan., concentrating on the kinds of services that made its name in the first place.
"It's amazing the number of people who ask, `Oh, you're still open?' " said Richard Munich, president, medical director and chief of staff. "We have a staff ready and able to take care of patients. We're very much open for business."
Five weeks after its proposed move to Houston dissolved for undisclosed reasons, Munich and other top clinic officials said Menninger remains committed to a partnership with a major medical center outside its Topeka birthplace. It may revive discussions with two other suitors spurned 11 months ago for Houston-the University of Kansas Medical Center and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
"I think there's a potential (for relocation) every place-we haven't ruled anybody out," said Ian Aitken, the clinic's president and chief operating officer.
The first announcement left many employees uncertain about the timing of the move, but Aitken said Menninger expects to operate the clinic through next June or July, targeting August 2002 as the "most likely" date for the relocation.
Menninger's Texas partnership reportedly was short-circuited when Baylor and Methodist were unable to raise the estimated $200 million in endowment funds they promised their new partner. Menninger, whose endowment has plummeted by nearly $40 million in just three years, posted a $3 million loss in 2000 and expects to absorb a considerably larger deficit this year because of extraordinary costs such as severance pay and strategic planning.
During the "transition" year since it stunned the Topeka community with its plans to relocate, Menninger has shuttered its operations in Kansas City, Kan., reduced the number of operating beds at the Topeka clinic to 95 from 143 and cut staff by about 40%. The patient load has been reduced by about that same level, Aitken said. The clinic now has about 450 employees, and plans call for a further reduction to from 300 to 320.
Regional and local programs have been consolidated or curtailed, including the transfer of some inpatient services to Stormont-Vail Healthcare, also in Topeka. A residency program with about 40 doctors has already been transferred to Houston, but Menninger expects to resurrect that key training tool when it lands a new partner.
At the same time, Munich said, the clinic is emphasizing its four specialty residential programs, which include the treatment of professionals in crisis and patients with obsessive-compulsive disorders. Since 1925, nearly 250,000 patients have been treated at Menninger, which has routinely ranked at the top of the list in the annual U.S. News and World Report survey of America's top hospitals. It was ranked No. 3 in this year's survey.
"In a way, we're going back to our core business-the services that gave Menninger its reputation," Munich said. "We're beefing those up."