Profit Before People- Clinic Closing an Insult to the Community

The closing of the Wound Clinic at Allina Health System’s Abbott Northwestern Hospital, reported in this issue of ACCESS PRESS, […]

The closing of the Wound Clinic at Allina Health System’s Abbott Northwestern Hospital, reported in this issue of ACCESS PRESS, is a clear case of placing the search for profits above the well-being of people with disabilities and chronic illnesses.

Pat Hartwig, Vice President of Operations for the clinic, cites as their first reason for closing the clinic that the center had no database to track how people were getting their wounds taken care of. She makes this argument despite the fact that 450 people pass through the clinic each month and see improvement in their wounds. I am one of those people. I have been a patient at the wound clinic off and on for seven years. Over that time I have gotten to know Jan Chevrette, Jennifer Todd, and the nurse manager at the clinic, plus four or five of the doctors who practice there. All of these people are committed to finding unique and personal ways of meeting the highly specialized, individual needs of each of their patients.

The reason such clinics exist in the first place is that most primary care physicians lack expertise in treating the slow-to-heal wounds, pressure sores, and tissue damage associated with many types of disabilities. In my own case, pressure sores on my feet have been a chronic problem,which is not uncommon for people with quadriplegia. Each time I went to the Wound Clinic with one of my unique wounds, it would take a team of 3 or 4 people to brainstorm on how, exactly, to heal the wound and to prevent it from coming back.

A wound that does not receive proper treatment can become a life-threatening crisis. A clinic such as the Allina Wound Clinic saves hundreds of thousands of dollars by providing needed preventative care in an outpatient setting, preventing amputations and keeping people out of expensive and already-overcrowded emergency rooms. By allowing people to receive specialized preventative care in a specialized setting, patients are allowed to retain their dignity while they cope with chronic and difficult health problems.

In recent months we have often heard the managed care industry tell us how important their role is because they are providing the care that is preventing people from getting sick. The closing of Allina’s Wound Clinic seems particularly ironic in this context.

The list of reasons given by Ms. Hartwig for closing the Clinic-lack of data, difficulty in billing, and high real estate values-is an insult. It is an insult to people with disabilities and to all the members of our community who have been willing to give managed care organizations a chance to come through on their promises to provide cost-effective care as part of the overall goal of improving the health of the population.

To express your opinion on Allina’s decision to close the Wound Clinic, call Pat Hartwig at Abbott Northwestern at (612) 863-3028.