While these are big layoff numbers from a big player in town, that isn't the only burr under so many saddles. Even the threat of outsourcing some services doesn't seem to be the main complaint. It's OHSU's insistence that the cuts are linked to a court decision at the end of last year that lifted OHSU's $200,000 damages cap in some cases. OHSU is reportedly looking at a cool $30 million in such annual damage payouts with the cap lifted.
OHSU was already whacking its budget, and the cap change means even more slashing, that much is certainly accurate. But today's monster malpractice claims are a reality that OHSU and other institutions have to address, period. The court just pushed the calendar ahead. What will become more evident over the coming weeks and months is that this is much more than belt tightening, it is a potential blow to public-health programs, both macro and micro.
Examples: One proposal under consideration would mean a smaller medical-school class, another would reduce or eliminate dental-clinic services in Portland for those who can't afford treatment otherwise. Losing even a few physicians who serve rotations or set up practices in rural areas here is a blow, and getting low-cost or free dental services is all but impossible even though the results of such care are exponentially greater than many other types of medical service for the recipients' overall health
This is an unfolding scenario for Seattle and other cities to watch with interest. When a city's biggest employer, and its major medical-health player is talking cuts and changes of this type, it means everything is up for discussion at the budget table.
There's also talk about shuttering the fancy new March Wellness Center OHSU built on the city's ambitious South Waterfront. The smart money says that won't happen, at least not to the spa and gym within that are so attractive to neighbors. I'm expecting picketers with signs that say You Can Have My Gym When You Pry My Elliptical Trainer Out of My Cold, Dead Fingers.
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