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Asante ups care for kids and elderly

Asante ups care for kids and elderly

Asante Health System is making expanded services for the old and the young chief landmarks on its road map to the future.

Asante identified geriatric and pediatric care and specialty oncology services as growing community needs -- and opportunities for Asante growth -- as part of a recently completed six-month planning process.

Asante, the largest employer in Southern Oregon, wants to expand services for those patient populations in the next two to three years, said Asante Chief Executive Officer Roy Vinyard.

Asante provides 65 percent of the in-patient services in Jackson and Josephine counties. But to stay on top, an organization needs a plan, Vinyard said. To that end, Asante interviewed and surveyed 120 employees, doctors and community leaders with the help of a consulting firm.

The plan that executives drew up, said Vinyard, will focus the organization on better meeting the health care needs of the community in an environment of limited finances.

Vinyard took over as CEO last fall, at the end of a business year in which Asante lost money for the first time. Officials cited ``extraordinary expenses that included the closing of a subsidiary doctors group.

Today we have a healthy balance sheet, he said. With cost-cutting measures in place, Asante is close to hitting its budget for this year, officials said. Annual revenues are $240 million.

Asante sees its survival tied to taking advantage of local demographics.

The elderly population represents 53 percent of our in-patient days, Vinyard said. And Josephine County, where Asante is building a $45 million, 80-bed hospital, has the highest percentage of people age 65 and older of any county in Oregon.

As the population of Jackson and Josephine counties grows by an expected 20,000 by 2005, the elderly population will boom, too.

This has some major implications for what health care will need to be, Vinyard said.

Hospitals everywhere struggle to survive in the shifting landscape of health care, where more and more HMOs are going bankrupt and Medicare reimbursements to hospitals in some areas have dropped drastically.

In its surveys and interviews, Asante found that employees were concerned about cost-cutting and communication with management. Doctors were concerned about the dissolution of the Southern Oregon Health Trust and the Medford Clinic, and about how to work with the hospital when they don't always agree. Community leaders were concerned about unmet local health care needs, especially adolescent mental health services.

Asante tried to address those concerns in its plan. It's working on improving communications, solving community health-care problems and reducing duplication of medical services.

One community member happy with Asante's direction is Bob Bean, a retiree and Grants Pass planning commissioner. I think they have a pretty good plan, Bean said. Certainly young mothers and babies and the old folks would be my major concern.