The move to eliminate the hospital's outpatient diabetes clinic was one of several steps taken by the hospital this year to trim expenses by some $18 million out of an overall budget of about $600 million.
Other actions included laying off 90 hospital staff, eliminating another 60 positions, and closing a pharmacy near the hospital's Pacific Avenue campus.
The outpatient diabetes clinic, which offered education classes and one-on-one counseling, was quietly closed in November. Letters were sent to patients announcing the change.
Four people lost their jobs when the outpatient diabetes program ended. The move saved the hospital about $400,000 a year, said Dave Brooks, the hospital's chief executive.
About 70 percent of the hospital's outpatient diabetes patients receive their general medical care from Providence Physician Group. Outpatient diabetes services will be shifted to those offices, Brooks said.
In Snohomish County, about 36,000 adults have diabetes and nearly 4 percent of youth in grades 8, 10 and 12 have the disease, according to Snohomish Health District.
Other area medical groups, such as The Everett Clinic and the Community Health Center of Snohomish County provide outpatient diabetes services, but patients must get their medical care at these clinics to receive the services.
Outpatient diabetes programs also are offered at Valley General Hospital in Monroe, Cascade Valley Hospital in Arlington, Swedish/Edmonds and Whidbey General Hospital in Coupeville.
"We felt that the hospital having an outpatient education program was duplicative and redundant," Brooks said. "It should be between the primary care provider and their patients."
Brooks said that patients will be better served by receiving the diabetes care at a medical clinic, where it can be integrated into their overall health care.
One position will be added at Providence Physician Group to help oversee diabetes care, a dietician who is a diabetes educator, according to Cheri Russum, hospital spokeswoman.
The move has been questioned by some, however. Among them is Susan Brand of Stanwood, who worked at the hospital for 19 years and is a dietician.
The hospital had large classrooms where information could be shared with diabetes patients. "Many times (patients) learn better with a small group, where they can share stories, information and questions," she said.
"I know the program at Providence had been in existence for a long time," she said. "It was a very good one I think they'll have a difficult time making up for it at Providence Physician Group."
About 9 percent of The Everett Clinic patients have diabetes. Some 800 patients participate in diabetes education classes each year, said spokeswoman April Zepeda.
Because of these ongoing classes, the hospital's decision to close its outpatient program has limited impact, she said.
However, up to 360 patients were referred each year to the hospital's outpatient program for nutrition counseling and another 120 a year were sent there for help in initiating and maintaining glucose pumps, which provide medication to patients, she said.
The organization is trying to figure out how it can serve those patients, she said.
"What we're going to do first is see how we're going to help our current patients," Zepeda said. "Then we need to figure out how we can address the patients from Providence who might want to come here."
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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