University health care center director begins tenure

by Patrick Hayes

Ten months after the director of a University-sponsored clinic in the Phillips neighborhood abruptly resigned amid widespread problems, the clinic has a new director and a renewed commitment to the community.
Karl Self took over as the director of the Community-University Health Care Center on Monday with plans to continue the clinic’s success rebuilding financial and administrative conditions.
A primary-care facility for the surrounding community, the clinic employs 120 people, including 40 students. The University provides funding for about half the clinic’s expenses.
Former director Amos Deinard resigned last August after the clinic — an Academic Health Center community outreach clinic — came under intense scrutiny by AHC officials.
An audit report published in August showed widespread problems within the clinic, ranging from problems with medical records to financial ones.
At the time the clinic was operating with a $2 million deficit. It also had problems with the reviewing and processing of medical and billing records.
One example cited in the report said it took three to four months before a physician received a patient’s abnormal lab results or before the patient was notified.
Since then the clinic has improved dramatically, said Terry Bock, AHC associate vice president, primarily because of the interim director Bonnie Brysky’s efforts, he added.
The clinic has made some fairly dramatic changes in the medical records area, Brysky explained.
After the University’s 1997 merger with Fairview Hospitals, the clinic and Fairview kept their records in the same file, resulting in many of the problems.
Now the clinic is “moving forward fairly rapidly to change our records, to completely separate them from the Fairview records,” Brysky said.
The clinic’s lab results used to be mailed straight to medical records. Now the records are sent straight to the physician for review so the patient and physician know the results immediately, she added.
The clinic is also preparing a budget plan for the next three years and hopes to increase revenue, grants and philanthropy, as well as reduce costs, Bock said.
The budget proposal will be submitted Monday, Self said.
Even though the clinic plans to cut costs, it will not reduce the medical care it provides.
“We’re not looking at it as laying off staff necessarily, cutting programs. … We just need to do as best of a job we can of maximizing the amount of patients and the amount of care for the patients,” Self said.
“If we did cut a program, it would be with great thoughtfulness, with (the community) board review and approval,” Brysky said.
Community reliance on the clinic
Nestled on the corner of Bloomington Avenue and Franklin Street, the clinic serves a vital role in the community.
It offers medical, dental and mental health services to about 8,600 patients annually.
About one-quarter to one-third of the patients are uninsured, and about 90 percent are underinsured, Brysky said.
“We get a significant number of seriously and persistently (sick patients) who get all of their medical, dental and mental health (care) here,” Brysky said.
Without the clinic, Self said most of the patients would end up in Hennepin County emergency rooms.
Selected as the director because of his past experience with the clinic, Self worked at the clinic from 1986 to 1996 as a dentist and performed administrative duties. Since then he has worked at various other clinics.
“The entire staff is absolutely thrilled that Karl got this position,” Brysky said. “Everyone is very exited.”
But Self still faces numerous challenges.
“It’s always been the financial challenges for the clinic throughout its history,” Self said. “And it will continue to be.”
“We have a renewed enthusiasm and I think we have seen the progress that can be made when we all work together,” he added.