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MedicAlert lays off 31 employees
Declining sales prompts staff reductions, says interim CEO
medicalert pic2
Cindy Pacheco puts a sheet of blank bracelets into the laser engraving machine at MedicAlert in April 2013. During busier times, MedicAlert engraved 500 bracelets and ID tags a day. - photo by Journal file photo



Thirty-one employees at MedicAlert Foundation started the new year with layoff notices, as the international medical information company based in Turlock reduced its workforce in the face of declining business.

"We are constantly making decisions to improve the cost and quality of our services," said Dan McCormick, interim CEO. "The totality of decisions made today, while significant, will enable MedicAlert to sustain and improve upon the important work it does around the world now and in the future."

MedicAlert employed 90 employees before the reductions, laying off a third of its workforce. Reductions in staffing were made throughout all departments of the company, according to McCormick.

"We place great value on our employees and the work they do on a daily basis for our customers," said Calvin Bland, MedicAlert Board chair in a statement released Monday, "therefore, we wanted to do everything we could to make this difficult transition as heartfelt and compassionate as possible."

Bland said the Foundation's Board of Directors was involved in the review process. Severance packages, including resume development support and job placement assistance, were provided to all affected employees.

McCormick, chief executive officer of consulting firm ETR who is currently serving as interim CEO for MedicAlert, said employees were not taken by surprise with the new year layoffs. According to McCormick, administration began talking with employees 45 days ago about the declining business and that it could mean a reduction in staffing.

"We told people, look, we're resizing to current realities. We will continue to look at ways we can refine the performance at MedicAlert," said McCormick.

"We created the industry and we were the industry for a very long time, maybe 40 years, and then we invited people to the marketplace...we need to keep refining ourselves and evolving and changing with the market and responding to competitive pressures just like other businesses," added McCormick.

Turlock teen Lillian Collins' near fatal allergic reaction to a doctor-administered tetanus antitoxin in 1953 — and her family's desire to prevent a similar medical emergency in the future — was the inspiration for MedicAlert, a company that revolutionized the health information field.

MedicAlert has seen a lot of change recently and over the past few years. In October, CEO Andrew Wigglesworth left the company citing personal reasons. Before his departure, Wigglesworth oversaw the upgrading of the company's computer systems, new smartphone applications and the implementation of continuum of services for people with differing life and medical circumstances.

In 2012, MedicAlert partnered with the Department of Justice to launch an integrated information system with law enforcement databases and the foundation's Alzheimer's Safe Return program.

The Foundation also launched a new service for employers. The service provides two primary services: medical care coordination and identification notification.

According to McCormick, these programs will not change in the near future and in fact the company will be looking at ways to increase outreach to new members and organizational partnerships. MedicAlert also has no plans at this time to leave Turlock.

 "MedicAlert is a longstanding member of this community, we believe that not only do we do service around the world, our presence here does service the community. We benefit from being in the community; we've reached out in a number of ways to be part of the community, and I don't see that changing," he said.