St. Vincent Charity Medical Center in Cleveland will lay off 978 workers when it ends many services in November, according to a notice filed with state regulators.
The hospital, part of Sisters of Charity Health System, is ending inpatient care and most other services in November. After the transition, the facility will offer outpatient behavioral health, urgent care and primary care.
The health system attributed the changes to several factors, including the rise in demand for outpatient care, declining inpatient volume and shifts in the healthcare industry over the last 10 years that have made it challenging to continue operating St. Vincent Charity Medical Center as an acute care hospital.
The changes will result in 978 employees being laid off on Nov. 15, according to the notice filed with state regulators.
“This extremely difficult decision is being made with deep respect and gratitude for our caregivers, and we regret the direct impact this decision will have on those individuals,” reads the layoff notice from the hospital. “Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic, the changing health care landscape, and declining inpatient volumes have led to significant financial challenges that became impossible to overcome.”
The layoffs will affect 446 full-time workers, 264 part-time employees and 268 workers who are called into work as needed, a spokesperson for Sisters of Charity Health System told Becker’s Hospital Review.
Adult inpatient volumes will recover to pre-pandemic numbers but grow only 2 percent over the next decade, a new report from Sg2 forecasts.
At the same time, adult inpatient days are expected to increase 8 percent and tertiary inpatient days are poised to increase 17 percent, fueled by an increase in chronic conditions.
“While case mix varies by hospital, it is likely this combination of increased inpatient volume, patient complexity and length of stay may require healthcare organizations to rethink service line prioritization, service distribution and investment in care at-home initiatives,” Maddie McDowell, MD, senior principal and medical director of quality and strategy for Sg2, said in a June 7 news release for the report.
Five other key takeaways from Sg2’s forecasts:
1. Outpatient volumes are projected to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2022 and then grow 16 percent through 2032, three percentage points above estimated population growth.
2. Surgical volumes are projected to grow 25 percent at ambulatory surgery centers and 18 percent at hospital outpatient departments and physician offices over the next decade.
3. The pandemic-driven decline in emergency department visits is expected to plateau with a decline in demand projected at -2 percent over the next 10 years.
4. Over the next five years, home care is expected to gain traction, with home evaluation and management visits seeing 19 percent growth, home hospice at 13 percent growth and home physical and occupational therapy at 10 percent growth.
5. Telehealth is expected to resume its climb and by 2032 account for 27 percent of all evaluation and management visits.
This week we heard from three healthcare executives that they’ve seen a recent uptick in emergency department (ED) volumes. As we’ve discussed before, ED visits plummeted at the beginning of the pandemic, and were the slowest class of care volume to rebound. Over the past year, many systems reported that ED volume had remained persistently stuck at 10 to 15 percent lower than pre-COVID levels, leading us to question whether there had been a secular shift in patient demand, with consumers choosing alternative options like telemedicine or urgent care as a first stop for minor acute care needs.
An uptick in ED volume would be welcome news to many hospital executives, as the emergency department is the source of half or more of inpatient admissions for many hospitals. But according to what we’re hearing, the recent rise in emergency department patient volume has not resulted in an expected bump in inpatient volume.
“We’ve dug into it, and it seems like the jump in ED visits is a function of COVID,” one leader shared. “There’s just so much COVID out there now…even though the disease is milder, there are still a lot of patients coming to the ED. But unlike last year, most aren’t sick enough to be admitted.”
And ED visits for other causes have not rebounded in the same way: “We’re hoping patients aren’t still staying away because they’re afraid of catching the virus.” We’ll be watching closely across the summer to see how volumes trend as the pandemic waxes and wanes across the country—we’d still bet that many consumers have changed their thinking on where and how they will seek care when the need arises.
More than two years after the pandemic’s onset, some types of hospital volume still haven’t returned to pre-pandemic levels. The graphic above uses recent data from analytics firm Strata Decision Technology to track monthly hospital volume across various care settings.
While outpatient volume continues to exceed pre-COVID levels, inpatient, emergency department (ED), and observation volume is still below the 2019 baseline.The unpredictability of volume trends is likely to continue, as COVID continues to ebb and flow regionally, and care continues to shift outpatient.
By contrast, the volume of virtual care visits has remained consistent, even as consumers return to in-person outpatient visits, driving up the overall level above the pre-pandemic baseline. Some of this increase in outpatient visit volume has been driven by consumers turning to urgent care clinics or doctors’ offices—either in-person or virtually—for their lower-acuity care needs.
While temporary reimbursement and licensing policies for telehealth have been the main stumbling blocks for many organizations’ longer-term planning for virtual visits, about half of states have now implemented permanent payment parity for telemedicine. As such, provider organizations that are still taking a “wait and see approach” must develop an economically sustainable virtual care model to reduce costs and meet evolving consumer demands.
Several hospitals are scaling back inpatient services or ending inpatient care.
Below are seven hospitals that announced plans to scale back or end inpatient care since February.
1. Marietta, Ga.-based WellStar Health System is closing the emergency department and ending inpatient care at Atlanta Medical Center South in May. The hospital will be converted into an outpatient site, and inpatient services will be consolidated to Atlanta Medical Center’s main campus, Wellstar said.
2. Tampa, Fla.-based Shriners Hospitals for Children is ending inpatient care at its campus in Springfield, Mass. The hospital gave the Massachusetts Department of Public Health a 120-day notice of the plan on March 31.
3. Kanakanak Hospital in Dillingham, Alaska, stopped accepting inpatient admissions April 8 because of a staffing shortage. The hospital’s owner said it expects to resume accepting inpatients again on May 1.
4. Boston-based Tufts Children’s Hospital is closing its pediatric inpatient units in July to convert its 41 pediatric inpatient beds to adult ICU and medical/surgical beds. Tufts will refer children to Boston Children’s Hospital for care.
5. Henrico Doctors’ Hospital in Richmond, Va., ended pediatric inpatient services April 1. The hospital attributed the decision in part to a low number of patients. The hospital said it’s seeing an increased demand for adult inpatient medical and surgical care. Although the pediatric units are closing, the hospital will continue to provide emergency medical care to children via designated emergency room space.
6. Mercyhealth ended inpatient care at Javon Bea Hospital-Rockton in Rockford, Ill., and transitioned it to an outpatient facility in March. Inpatient services were consolidated to Javon Bea Hospital-Riverside in Rockford. Javon Bea Hospital-Rockton offers outpatient services, including cancer care, pain management, outpatient surgery and pediatrics.
7. Ascension St. John Medical Center plans to close its pediatric intensive care and general pediatric inpatient care unit at the end of April. The Tulsa, Okla.-based hospital said the decision was based on a community needs assessment and analysis of services offered in the community. Pediatric ambulatory, surgical and neonatal ICU services will not be affected, the hospital said.
Tampa, Fla.-based Shriners Hospitals for Children is transitioning its Springfield, Mass., campus into an outpatient clinic model, NBC/CW affiliate WWLP reported April 20.
Current outpatient services won’t be affected, except that ambulatory surgery will end.
The hospital gave the Massachusetts Department of Public Health a 120-day notice of the plan on March 31, Western Mass News reported April 20.
“The advancement of surgical procedures has resulted in very few patients requiring admission for inpatient pediatric services, which are the cornerstone of a hospital facility,” Shriners said in a letter obtained by Western Mass News. “Accordingly, after evaluating the needs of our patients, we have determined that Shriners Hospitals for Children may best serve our patients and fulfill our charitable mission by transitioning this location from a hospital to an outpatient clinic model.”
Two major policy developments emerged from this week’s release by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) of the FY22 proposed rule governing payment for hospital outpatient services and ambulatory surgical centers.
First, CMS proposes todramatically increase the financial penalties assessed to hospitals that fail to adequately reveal prices for their services, a requirement first put in place by the Trump administration. According to a report by the consumer group Patient Rights Advocate, only 5.6 percent of a random sample of 500 hospitals were in full compliance with the transparency requirement six months after the regulation came into effect, with many instead choosing to pay the $300 per hospital per day penalty associated with noncompliance. The new CMS regulation proposes to scale the assessed penalties in accordance with hospital size, with larger hospitals liable for up to $2M in annual penalties, a substantial increase from the earlier $109,500 maximum annual fine. In a press release, the agency said it “takes seriously concerns it has heard from consumers that hospitals are not making clear, accessible pricing information available online, as they have been required to do since January 1, 2021.” In a statement, the AHA stated that it was “deeply concerned” about the proposal, “particularly in light of substantial uncertainty in the interpretation of the rules.” The penalty hike is a clear signal that the Biden administration plans to put teeth behind its new push for more competition in healthcare, which was a major focus of the President’s recent executive order. We’d expect to see most hospitals and health systems quickly move to comply with the transparency rule, given the size of potential penalties.
More heartening to hospitals was CMS’ proposal to roll back changes the Trump administration made, aimed at shifting certain surgical procedures into lower cost, ambulatory settings. The agency proposed halting the elimination of the Inpatient Only (IPO) list, which specifies surgeries CMS will only pay for if they are performed in an inpatient hospital. Citing patient safety concerns, CMS noted that the phased elimination of the IPO list, which began this year, was undertaken without evaluating whether individual procedures could be safely moved to an outpatient setting. Nearly 300 musculoskeletal procedures have already been eliminated from the list, and will now be added back to the list for 2022, keeping the rest of the list intact while CMS undertakes a formal process to review each procedure. Longer term, we’d anticipate that CMS will look to continue the elimination of inpatient-only restrictions on surgeries, as well as pursuing other policies (such as site-neutral payment) that level the playing field between hospitals and lower-cost outpatient providers.
For now, hospitals will enjoy a little more breathing room to plan for the financial consequences of that inevitable shift.
Though consumers say they’re increasingly confident in returning to healthcare settings, hospital volume is not returning with the same momentum across the board. Using the most recent data from analytics firm Strata Decision Technology, covering the first quarter of this year, the graphic above shows that observation, inpatient, and emergency department volumes all remain below pre-COVID levels.
Consumers are still most wary about returning to the emergency department, with volume down nearly 20 percent across the past year. Meanwhile, hospital outpatient visits rebounded quickly, and have been growing steadily month over month, finishing March 2021 at 36 percent above the 2019 level.
Meanwhile, a recent report from the Commonwealth Fund shows that no ambulatory specialty fully made up for the COVID volume hit by the end of last year. But some areas, including rheumatology, urology, and adult primary care, have bounced back faster than others.
With continued success in rolling out vaccines and reducing COVID cases, we’d expect a continued recovery of most hospital visit volume. It may be, however, that some areas, such as the emergency department, will never fully recover to pre-COVID levels. To the extent those visits are now being replaced by more appropriate telemedicine and urgent care utilization, that’s welcome news.
But the continued lag of inpatient admissions indicates that some of the loss of emergency volume is more worrisome—warranting continued efforts on the part of providers to reassure patients it’s safe to use healthcare services. Stay tuned as our team continues to dig into this data.
A key Medicare advisory panel is calling for a 2% bump to Medicare payments for acute care hospitals for 2022 but no hike for physicians.
The report, released Monday from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC)—which recommends payment policies to Congress—bases payment rate recommendations on data from 2019. However, the commission did factor in the pandemic when evaluating the payment rates and other policies in the report to Congress, including whether policies should be permanent or temporary.
“The financial stress on providers is unpredictable, although it has been alleviated to some extent by government assistance and rebounding service utilization levels,” the report said.
MedPAC recommended that targeted and temporary funding policies are the best way to help providers rather than a permanent hike for payments that gets increased over time.
“Overall, these recommendations would reduce Medicare spending while preserving beneficiaries’ access to high-quality care,” the report added.
MedPAC expects the effects of the pandemic, which have hurt provider finances due to a drop in healthcare use, to persist into 2021 but to be temporary.
It calls for a 2% update for inpatient and outpatient services for 2022, the same increase it recommended for 2021.
The latest report recommends no update for physicians and other professionals. The panel also does not want any hikes for four payment systems: ambulatory surgical centers, outpatient dialysis facilities, skilled nursing facilities and hospices.
MedPAC also recommends Congress reduce the aggregate hospice cap by 20% and that “ambulatory surgery centers be required to report cost data to [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)],” the report said.
But it does call for long-term care hospitals to get a 2% increase and to reduce payments by 5% for home health and inpatient rehabilitation facilities.
The panel also explores the effects of any policies implemented under the COVID-19 public health emergency, which is likely to extend through 2021 and could continue into 2022.
For instance, CMS used the public health emergency to greatly expand the flexibility for providers to be reimbursed for telehealth services. Use of telehealth exploded during the pandemic after hesitancy among patients to go to the doctor’s office or hospital for care.
“Without legislative action, many of the changes will expire at the end of the [public health emergency],” the report said.
MedPAC recommends Congress temporarily continue some of the telehealth expansions for one to two years after the public health emergency ends. This will give lawmakers more time to gather evidence on the impact of telehealth on quality and Medicare spending.
“During this limited period, Medicare should temporarily pay for specified telehealth services provided to all beneficiaries regardless of their location, and it should continue to cover certain newly-covered telehealth services and certain audio-only telehealth services if there is potential for clinical benefit,” according to a release on the report.
After the public health emergency ends, Medicare should also return to paying the physician fee schedule’s facility rate for any telehealth services. This will ensure Medicare can collect data on the cost for providing the services.
“Providers should not be allowed to reduce or waive beneficiary cost-sharing for telehealth services after the [public health emergency],” the report said. “CMS should also implement other safeguards to protect the Medicare program and its beneficiaries from unnecessary spending and potential fraud related to telehealth.”
Ann Arbor-based Michigan Medicine will start construction on its $920 million hospital in the coming months, after delaying the project last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a March 8 health system update.
Michigan Medicine said its planning team has resumed design work on the facility.
The 12-story, 690,000-square-foot hospital is expected to house 264 private rooms, 20 operating rooms and three interventional radiology suites.
Citing a financial loss exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the academic health system delayed the project in May 2020.
With the delay, the new hospital is slated to open in the fall of 2025.