Increased need for specialized medical care is prompting Hospice of the Bluegrass to add 10-12 nursing positions and cut 16 social workers, including three from the Frankfort office.
According to Deede Byrne, chief clinical officer for Hospice of the Bluegrass, feedback from staff and families indicates a rise in nursing interventions over the last 10 years.
“Our patients are a lot sicker than they used to be,” Byrne said in an interview with the State Journal. “A decade ago, the situation may have looked like a nursing home. Now it looks more like an ICU room.”
Two nurses will be added to the Frankfort office, which serves nearly 125 patients a day in Franklin, Woodford and Anderson counties. A total of 21 nurses and 13 social workers will remain on local staff.
Hospice of the Bluegrass has offices in Lexington, Nicholasville, Frankfort, Cynthiana, Florence, Hazard, Corbin, HarHarlan and Pikeville. The Corbin, Harlan and Pikeville offices will not lose any social work positions.
Byrne, who was the Hospice site director in Frankfort from 1999-2009, said she doesn’t believe the personnel changes will have a great affect on daily care. Social workers will only see a small increase in their caseloads.
“We’ll still have social workers, but (patients) will see increased nursing support,” she said. “As the care required gets more high-tech, we need more IV’s, more lab draws, more medications – things that require a nurse.
“We also started adding electronic medical records, which is very burdensome. With fewer patients’ records to take care of, nurses will be able to spend more time with patients.”
And according to Byrne, more face-to-face time is what patients need.
“When I was in Frankfort I told my staff, ‘Families will send you thank you letters, and its not for the medicine you administer. It’s for you and your visits.’ That’s what we’re providing.”
According to a press release, employees affected by the change will be offered a severance package and given at least 60 days notice in order to make appropriate arrangements.
Also in the release, Gretchen Brown, president and CEO of Hospice of the Bluegrass, said the move was not financially motivated, noting the personnel costs for the new nurses will be about the same or greater than the costs of the displaced social workers.
“At the end of the day, this is very difficult for us,” Byrne said. “We’re asking those who were thinking about moving or who are having a baby to volunteer (to leave).”
So far, 10 have offered to step away, including two from the Frankfort office.
“We’d normally just wait for someone to leave and then not refill the position, but we can’t wait that long,” Byrne said. “We have to think about the care that we provide our patients and families. If they need more nursing care, then we have to be committed to giving them that care.”