Sandhill claim questioned

5/15/2014

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

A claim by a representative of the Kansas Orthopedic Center that all Sandhill Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine employees kept their jobs after KOC bought the Garden City clinic didn't sit well with several former Sandhill employees who were laid off.

Wichita-based Kansas Orthopaedic Center purchased Sandhill in the weeks following the death of practice founder Dr. Michael Baughman, who died Jan. 10 from injuries sustained in an automobile accident. Baughman opened the clinic in 1993.

During an interview about the changeover earlier this month, Dr. James Gluck, a physician with KOC, mentioned that all Sandhill employees kept their jobs.

At least five people were laid off from Sandhill in February, and former employees say there may be a few others who left voluntarily.

Debi Asper, a medical transcriptionist for nearly 10 years at Sandhill who also worked with Baughman at Garden Medical Clinic taking dictation, was let go on Feb. 14. While she received a "very nice letter" from Sandhill explaining the layoff, which she used as a reference letter when applying for other jobs, Asper wanted to come forward and correct the notion that no one was let go.

"It's just that you tell people when you're looking for a job that you got laid off, and then they read that and think, 'Is she lying?'" Asper said. "I felt it coming. I knew it was going to happen."

Asper said no one likes to lose their job, but she isn't angry at Sandhill.

"Oh no, I wasn't angry at all. I have no hard feelings. If I have any hard feelings, it's towards Kansas Orthopedic Center," she said.

Asper said soon after Dr. Baughman died, representatives of KOC began coming to the Garden City clinic. At first, Asper was told they would need a medical transcriptionist, but she later learned that wasn't the case.

The weeks following Baughman's death were tough for everyone, Asper said. On top of that loss, there was much anxiety about job loss.

Sandhill was Matt Ihler's first job out of college. A native of South Dakota, he moved to Garden City to work at Sandhill. He was an athletic trainer there for about a year and a half.

"I understand why. I'm not really angry about it, I understand," he said.

Ihler is continuing to look for a new job. He said he has a had a couple of interviews he's waiting to hear back from, and has some more lined up. He and his wife, who is employed by Mosaic, still live in Garden City.

Marina Trujillo, who started at Sandhill in December as a receptionist and translator, had mixed feelings about the layoff. While she understood, as a relatively new employee, that her job would likely be one of the first to go, it was still an upsetting situation.

Trujillo has since gotten a new job as a receptionist for a physical therapist. Like others, Trujillo was irritated that KOC officials said everyone kept their jobs.

"No, we didn't all keep our jobs, because if we did we'd still be there," she said.

When contacted this week, Gluck acknowledged the mistake.

"That was a misstatement on my part, and I apologize. We've tried real hard to keep as many people as possible," Gluck said.

Gluck said there were some job losses that couldn't be helped, because otherwise, the whole office might have had to close. He said some of the layoffs were to eliminate redundancy, acknowledging that some business office functions were moved to Wichita.

"There were some positions, like he had a scrub we weren't going to use, a PA who was leaving anyhow. There may have been a couple of office people, and I didn't realize that. I probably misspoke. But the majority of the people are continuing there. That was a miscommunication on my part," Gluck said.

Asper recently started a new job in records at the Garden City Police Department. The new job is going well, though she said there is a lot to learn. While she likes her new co-workers, Asper said she still misses her job at Sandhill and all the relationships she had with people there over the years. Like others, she still feels the loss of Dr. Baughman.

"I just felt so bad for Paulette, everything she and the girls were going through," she said of Baughman's family. "It was devastating. It was really awful."

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