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Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Minster firm to cut jobs

By Margie Wuebker
Forty-one more employees of Apria Healthcare in Minster received formal notification their jobs will be phased out by early February. The announcement to those involved in patient payment collection came in the form of letters earlier this month.
The number is in addition to 51 jobs impacted by a spring announcement that the Lake Forest, Calif.-based company intends to consolidate billing center operations across the country. These employees, who handled billing to primarily non-government managed care concerns, also will find themselves without jobs by early next year.
That will leave approximately 20 employees - direct patient care and medical equipment support personnel - in the large plant located at 311 Industrial Drive. Company officials maintain they will remain in Minster.
"There have been a few involuntary resignations since our initial spring announcement," said Lisa Getson, Apria's executive vice president of government and corporate compliance. "It is difficult to provide an exact number of jobs that have been phased out since April."
Getson called the billing center/patient pay center consolidation unfortunate for impacted employees as well as the community. However, she claimed there has been no impact on the quality of patient care or customer perceptions.
"The decision was not a reflection on the quality of the work or the strong work ethic of our Minster employees," she said. "The sole reason for consolidation is the severity of the cuts to the Medicare benefit and payment rates for home oxygen therapy and home medical equipment."
Getson indicated the company has made every effort to transfer affected employees in Minster and 12 additional locations to three other Apria sites in the U.S. - Jackson, Tenn., Overland Park, Kan., and Tempe, Ariz. Several reportedly pursued this option but she had no exact number.
Rumors continue to circulate about the local jobs heading to India. Getson previously denied that was the case but now leaves the door open for such a possibility.
She explained simpler functions such as fax management and electronic and/or telephone insurance verification will be moved to Intelenet, a global company specializing in such business processing functions.
"Intelenet operates a number of centers around the world; India is just one such site," she told The Daily Standard via e-mail response to a list of questions.
Anonymous calls to the newspaper pointed to Apria's application and approval for U.S. Department of Labor TRADE assistance as a clear indication of the company's intent to go overseas because such help is available to those losing jobs to another country.
The approval reportedly clears the way for additional educational assistance and transition support.
Apria provides a range of home health care services, including respiratory therapy, infusion, enteral (tube) feedings, medications, diabetic supplies and other equipment.
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