Three patients involved with the Mogollon Health Alliance's MHAX III program sent letters to the editor recently because the program was changing. The program is for cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, especially for those individuals who have been released from formal supervision, but still need a specialized exercise program.
The letters complained about the departure of the program supervisor, Diane Riddle, and said little or no explanation was given.
"Financial considerations forced MHA to discontinue the services of Diane Riddle. It had nothing to do with the quality of care she provided," explained Judy Baker, executive director of MHA, a not-for-profit corporation. "We can't afford to stay where we're at, so to keep the program open we had to make changes. I'm not at liberty to discuss personnel matters."
Baker said she knows that two of the clients making complaints have met with the president of the MHA board of directors and had the changes explained in detail.
One of these was Thomas Tainsh. In his letter to the paper, written before his meeting with the board president, Tainsh said he did not know why Riddle was terminated.
"But you have upset this whole group ... If this was strictly a monetary decision, shame on you ... Diane is a caring person, that not only served her position well, but cared about the people she served."
In an interview with the Roundup, Tainsh said "I've talked to the MHA president and someone in the office and I'm getting different answers. If I'd been given the same answers, I would let it drop. But it seems they're trying to hide something. When I start asking questions, they get nervous and tell me to go away. I think we should get better answers than we've been given. The president told me it was economics, because of the way the grant was written. Things need to be changed there."
Irina Lockwood, the wife of another client, Charles Lockwood, wrote a letter to the Roundup. Her husband has participated in the program for two years. She said Diane Riddle supervised it with professional expertise, compassion, patience, and understanding for her patients' individual requirements and limitations.
Charles Lockwood told the Roundup, Diane made sure the clients were happy as well as healthy.
"You don't even get that from the doctor," he said.
Lockwood said he plans to stay with the program, though he is somewhat disgruntled.
"They took one out and put two in, but they can never make up for the one," he said.
Pat Brown, whose husband, Curtis, is also a client in the program, told the Roundup: "Because of Diane, her spirit, her knowledge and her caring ways, this group ... in failing cardiac or respiratory health have regained a spirit and wellness beyond their, or their families', expectations ...
"The (people) need and depend on her for the inspiration they need to fight for the most important thing on earth - their health. How dare the board take that away."
Curtis Brown said he is still with the program and thinks he will stay with it. Brown said a couple in his morning group have quit the program since Riddle's departure and they have heard others are quitting as well, but don't know how factual the information is.
According to MHA, no one has formally resigned from the program.
Riddle shared her take on the events in an interview this week.
"I was told I was laid off due to financial reasons. I feel there is more to it because I'd just trained two people to work in it just prior to that ... I was canned and I can live with that. But it's difficult for the clients. They trust you to encourage them and give positive feedback, they develop quite a bond. It's been really hard for them.
"It's been hard for me losing that contact with the clients. I loved my job, it was very fulfilling, very fulfilling, and it was the clients who made it that way," she said.
Riddle said she had been with MHA for four years and was instrumental in getting the program started after the hospital dropped it and let her go.
"It's ironic that five years ago this same thing happened at the hospital when Community Health Services came in. They said it was because of insurance reimbursement issues. I was laid off and the clients were told to go to local gyms," Riddle said.
"I don't want to be negative about what happened to me. I'm a person who believes if there's good communication, new options can be found to improve difficult situations ... I was doing my job and doing the very best I could."
Riddle said she is hoping to go back to school now and become a registered nurse.
In spite of the changes in personnel and a coming move, the program will still be offered, but it will be a joint effort by MHA and the Payson Athletic Club, Baker said.
The program will be offered in space provided by PAC starting June 30, she said.
For more information contact MHA at 472-2588 or the PAC at 474-0916.