Vaden to outsource control of physical therapy

May 7, 2010, 1:02 a.m.

Citing budget cuts, Vaden Health Center officials said control of the center’s physical therapy unit will be transferred to an outside firm beginning in September. The unit, staffed by four employees, serves about 700 students a year.

The physical therapy unit currently operates on general funds; starting in the fall, it will turn to insurance billings to support itself, said Ira Friedman, the director of Vaden, in an announcement.

“It was a very serious and deliberative process,” Friedman wrote in an e-mail to The Daily. “We looked for savings in all of the units at Vaden. In physical therapy, we thought we could end the University’s financial support and rely instead on insurance billing.”

“We decided, after a lot of study, that to make that happen we needed to have an outside company manage the physical therapy unit,” he added.

Friedman said the amount of money saved by this move is “significant,” but would not discuss exact numbers. Currently, students who are insured by Cardinal Care pay a $10 co-pay per physical therapy visit.

“Other units at Vaden have already been affected,” Friedman said. “We’ve reduced our medical clinic hours on weekends; we’ve reduced staff in Medical Services and Health Promotion, and some of our remaining staff will work fewer hours in the summer.”

The unit transition will take place over the summer, and Friedman said no further cuts to service are planned.

One former physical therapy patient, law student Crystal Sokoff, said she is concerned with what will happen to the unit’s four employees, whom Friedman said are encouraged to apply for jobs with the new physical therapy company. The new company’s name has yet to be announced.

“For therapy patients, this translates to the very real proposition that we could lose our current therapists and their unique skills,” wrote Sokhoff, who began attending physical therapy after a knee injury in 2007, in an e-mail to The Daily. She said she still stops by to see her former therapists.

“I really feel that they are instrumental to other students in the way they interact and the mental support they give because they understand; they know what activities you want to do to be fit and young,” Sokoff added.

Tim Bowman, the chief physical therapist at Vaden and a 26-year employee, said he was not allowed to talk about the move.

“We intend to maintain the same high quality and convenient access to physical therapy services at the Vaden facility,” Friedman said.

Contact Kate Abbott at [email protected].

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