Home Care Department closes

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September 30, 2013 - 5 minutes read

Reduction in workforce as a direct result of Balanced Budget Act of 2012 & Sequester

Approximately 30 Home Care employees were affected by layoffs announced earlier this week by President/CEO Gene Peltola. An additional 15 employees and their positions from various YKHC departments were also eliminated as a result of the Congressional mandate, known as sequester, for compliance with the Balanced Budget Act of 2012. In statements issued earlier this year, YKHC leadership said a reduction in force would occur, while also announcing the elimination of YKHC’s popular summer hire program which employed many high school and college students who returned to Bethel to seek gainful employment during the summer break.

“Roughly half of the individuals working in the Home Care department have been offered other employment opportunities, or transfers, to other departments where their qualifications are applicable,” said YKHC’s Director of Human Resources, Carla Romero-Erlanson. “Approximately 100 people were in consideration of the recent layoff, even though less than 3 percent of YKHC’s workforce were impacted.”

“A total of 44 vacancies (un-filled positions) were also eliminated as a result of sequester,” said Dan Winkelman, General Counsel for YKHC. “YKHC leadership is committed to advocate the impact of sequester within the Alaska Tribal Health System, National Tribal Health entities, and our respected Alaska Congressional delegation to exempt future IHS funds from sequester to help cushion the blow this will have on our local and regional economy.”

Liz Lee, the director of the Home Care department since 1996, said, “this is a very rough and sensitive situation for all of us, especially for our elders and the personal home care attendants who reside in our village service area. This layoff will mean that individuals who are receiving payment from YKHC for taking care of their relatives or family members in their homes will now have to identify additional resources for the services they provide, or take care of their family members in alignment with our traditional values as they normally would in taking care of our elders and family members who need that assistance. First and foremost, I am grateful to my staff and to YKHC for the years we were able to dedicate to this cause. We are all sad to see it go.”

Some patients may have to be admitted into institutions as a result of the Home Care department closure. “Our goal is always to try to keep people at home for as long as possible until their health care needs necessitate otherwise,” Lee said.

Marcia Coffey, Lead Social Worker for YKHC’s transition services, said, “building and opening the new Yukon Kuskokwim Elder’s Home and 24-hour skilled nursing facility is not the solution, but it is part of the solution.”

The Home Care Program’s elimination will impact up to 80 or 90 individuals who qualified for the service, or needed additional assistance such as helping with laundry, cleaning and/or meals in the home. The Home Care Program will be closed in its entirety effective October 25.

President/CEO Gene Peltola said in a recent interview with local radio station KYUK that, “we will be eliminating Home Care in its entirety in our villages and in Bethel. It is a program we were losing a considerable amount of money on.” It should be noted that YKHC is only one of two tribal health organizations that actually employed people to provide home care benefits. The only other one is the Tanana Chiefs Conference health organization based out of Fairbanks.

YKHC anticipates a total loss of $7.7 million in FY 2013 and FY 2014 as well as more cuts for years to come if an IHS exemption does not occur.

“Sequester is a long term problem and these reductions and cuts will continue to be an annual process YKHC anticipates in order for us to live within our means,” said Peltola.