Partnership Cancelled

June 9, 2017

With more than $130 million in combined bills owed to them by the state’s group health insurance program, two Illinois hospitals will no longer be able to provide athletic trainers for nine area high schools. The move will end a 30-year partnership and is expected to be in place by the end of this academic year, reported The State Journal-Register.

The hospitals involved are Springfield’s Memorial Medical Center and HSHS St. John’s Hospital. In total, 11 sports medicine professionals will be laid off, including three athletic trainers from St. John’s AthletiCare program and eight athletic trainers and an exercise physiologist at Memorial’s SportsCare program. The cuts are anticipated to save Memorial Medical Center about $500,000 annually.

“The state budget crisis is causing all of us to make difficult decisions,” Charles Lucore, MD, MBA, Chief Executive Officer of St. John’s, told The State Journal-Register. “This was something we couldn’t continue to do.”

Since neither the state law nor the Illinois High School Association require athletic trainers to be at games or practices, the affected schools are in a difficult position. Many cannot afford to hire a full-time athletic trainer, but the student-athletes and parents have come to expect them at games and practices.

“It’s total fiscal destruction,” said Darren Root, Superintendent of Auburn School District 10, one of the district’s impacted by the cut. “It always seems to come back on the shoulders of the schools.”

“Cutting back could be an option, but I don’t think we could go without,” echoed Matt Brue, Superintendent of the PORTA Community Unit School District #202.

As far as alternative options go, St. John’s would be willing to consider other arrangements—such as leasing an athletic trainer’s services to schools—if a contract could be worked out. The nearby Springfield Clinic is also considering hiring some of the athletic trainers being laid off. In turn, the clinic would allow the affected schools to receive a reduced amount of service for free. Along with assisting the schools, this could help avoid one or more layoffs. However, schools would have to pay if they wanted to keep the same level of full-time care.

Despite the upset caused by this announcement and the uncertainty about the future, the athletic directors and school superintendents who will be affected by the decision generally understand the situation.

“We’ve been really fortunate and spoiled [by St. John’s and Memorial],” said Rick Sanders, Director of School Support for Springfield District 186. “They’ve been great to us, they really have.” 

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