‘Who’s going to take care of these people?’

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/national/wp/2019/05/11/feature/whos-going-to-take-care-of-these-people/?utm_campaign=Issue:%202019-05-13%20Healthcare%20Dive%20%5Bissue:20860%5D&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_term=.32a0834177a0

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The hospital had already transferred out most of its patients and lost half its staff when the CEO called a meeting to take inventory of what was left. Employees crammed into Tina Steele’s office at Fairfax Community Hospital, where the air conditioning was no longer working and the computer software had just been shut off for nonpayment.

“I want to start with good news,” Steele said, and she told them a food bank would make deliveries to the hospital and Dollar General would donate office supplies.

“So how desperate are we?” one employee asked. “How much money do we have in the bank?”

“Somewhere around $12,000,” Steele said.

“And how long will that last us?”

“Under normal circumstances?” Steele asked. She looked down at a chart on her desk and ran calculations in her head. “Probably a few hours,” she said. “Maybe a day at most.”

The staff had been fending off closure hour by hour for the past several months, ever since debt for the 15-bed hospital surpassed $1 million and its outside ownership group entered into bankruptcy, beginning a crisis in Fairfax that is becoming familiar across much of rural America. More than 100 of the country’s remote hospitals have gone broke and then closed in the past decade, turning some of the most impoverished parts of the United States into what experts now call “health-hazard zones,” and Fairfax was on the verge of becoming the latest. The emergency room was down to its final four tanks of oxygen. The nursing staff was out of basic supplies such as snakebite antivenin and strep tests. Hospital employees had not received paychecks for the past 11 weeks and counting.

The only reason the hospital had been able to stay open at all was that about 30 employees continued showing up to work without pay, increasing their hours to fill empty shifts and essentially donating time to the hospital, understanding what was at stake. Some of them had been born or had given birth at Fairfax Community. Several others had been stabilized and treated in the emergency room after heart attacks or accidents. There was no other hospital within 30 miles of two-lane roads and prairie in sprawling Osage County, which meant Fairfax Community was the only lifeline in a part of the country that increasingly needed rescuing.

“If we aren’t open, where do these people go?” asked a physician assistant, thinking about the dozens of patients he treated each month in the ER, including some in critical condition after drug overdoses, falls from horses, oil field disasters or car crashes.

“They’ll go to the cemetery,” another employee said. “If we’re not here, these people don’t have time. They’ll die along with this hospital.”

“We have no supplies,” Steele said. “We have nothing. How much longer can we provide quality care?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

As emergencies rise across rural America, a hospital fights for its lifeAs emergencies rise across rural America, a hospital fights for its life

 

8 hospitals closed so far this year — here’s why

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/8-hospitals-closed-so-far-this-year-here-s-why.html?origin=cfoe&utm_source=cfoe

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From reimbursement landscape challenges to dwindling patient volumes, many factors lead hospitals to close.

Here are the factors that led eight hospitals to close so far this year:

1. Belmont Community Hospital, a 99-bed hospital in Bellaire, Ohio, closed April 5. Hospital officials cited a decline in patient volume as the reason for the closure. “Utilization of BCH has continued to decline despite efforts to offer varying services at the facility,” the hospital said in a press release. “The decline has place[d] a financial strain on the BCH that cannot be sustained in the long term.”

2. Kentuckiana Medical Center in Clarksville, Ind., closed April 5. The hospital, which opened in 2009, faced financial losses for years and previously filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to the Louisville Courier Journal.

3. Horton (Kan.) Community Hospital closed March 12. The 25-bed critical access hospital, owned by Kansas City, Mo.-based EmpowerHMS, shut down after struggling to pay utilities and missing payroll for several weeks. The hospital entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy on March 14.

4. Georgiana (Ala.) Medical Center closed March 8. Ivy Creek Healthcare in Georgiana, which owns the hospital, cited growing costs and cuts to reimbursement as the reasons for the closure.

5. Cumberland River Hospital in Celina, Tenn., closed March 1. In January, officials announcedthat the hospital was shutting down due to financial challenges. They said Cumberland River Hospital had experienced significant losses in recent years due to declining reimbursements and lower patient volumes.

6. Harrisburg, Pa.-based UPMC Pinnacle closed its hospital in Lancaster, Pa., on Feb. 28. The health system announced plans in December to close UPMC Pinnacle Lancaster and transition inpatient services to another one of its hospitals located about 7 miles away. In a Feb. 15 news release, UPMC Pinnacle President and CEO Philip Guarneschelli said consolidating inpatient services on one campus would make care more convenient for patients.

7. Oswego (Kan.) Community Hospital and its two affiliated clinics closed Feb. 14. A statement from the board announcing the closure said the hospital, owned by Kansas City, Mo.-based EmpowerHMS, wasn’t bringing in enough revenue to cover payroll and other expenses. After the abrupt closure, the hospital entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy on March 17.

8. Washington County Hospital in Plymouth, N.C., closed Feb. 14 after missing payroll on Feb. 8. The critical access hospital is now working its way through the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process. The hospital is one of several facilities owned by Kansas City, Mo.-based EmpowerHMS that has entered bankruptcy or closed in recent months. The Washington County Board of Commissioners is working with state and federal agencies to investigate the hospital’s financial and operational issues and working to restore medical services as the hospital, according to a Feb. 19 public service announcement on Washington County’s website.

 

 

Illinois hospital moves to suspend services, gives employees 60-day notice of closing

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/illinois-hospital-moves-to-suspend-services-gives-employees-60-day-notice-of-closing.html

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Citing a staff shortage, Los Angeles-based Pipeline Health announced plans April 9 to suspend services at Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park, Ill. That plan was put on hold after a Cook County Circuit Court judge held that the abrupt closure could have “irreparable harm” to the community, according to the Chicago Sun Times.

In late January, Pipeline acquired Westlake Hospital and two other facilities from Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare. A few weeks after the transaction closed, Pipeline revealed plans to shut down 230-bed Westlake Hospital, citing declining inpatient stays and losses of nearly $2 million a month.

Pipeline said staffing rates have significantly declined in the weeks since it filed the application to close Westlake Hospital.

“Our utmost priority is safety and quality of patient care,” Pipeline Health CEO Jim Edwards said in an April 9 press release. “With declining staffing rates and more attrition expected, a temporary suspension of services is necessary to assure safe and sufficient operations. This action is being taken after considering all alternatives and with the best interest of our patients in mind.”

In addition to announcing the suspension of services, Pipeline also said it gave hospital employees a 60-day notice of closure, which is required by state and federal law.

Pipeline’s plan to immediately suspend services at the hospital was put on hold yesterday evening, when Judge Eve Reilly granted the village of Melrose Park a temporary restraining order to prevent the hospital from closing. The restraining order prevents Pipeline from closing the hospital, cutting services or laying off workers until after the state Health Facilities and Services Review Board considers the application to shut down the hospital on April 30, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The board could postpone the application due a pending lawsuit against Pipeline over the closure, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The village of Melrose Park sued Pipeline in March, alleging Pipeline acquired Westlake Hospital under false pretenses. The lawsuit alleges Pipeline and its owners kept their plans to shut down the hospital secret until after the transaction with Tenet closed to avoid opposition from village leaders and community members.

Pipeline recently filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing its application for change of ownership made no promise to keep Westlake Hospital open and that the hospital’s financial troubles were not fully evident at the time the change of ownership was prepared.

“The complete impact of Westlake’s 2018 devastating net operating loss was not known until the year’s end and had not fully occurred in September 2018 when Pipeline submitted its application for change of ownership or even when that application was granted,” Pipeline said in a press release.

Pipeline said Westlake Hospital ended 2018 with a net operating loss of $14 million, and those losses are projected to worsen over time.

 

ECONOMIC RIPPLES: HOSPITAL CLOSURE HURTS A TOWN’S ABILITY TO ATTRACT RETIREES

https://www.healthleadersmedia.com/finance/economic-ripples-hospital-closure-hurts-towns-ability-attract-retirees?utm_source=silverpop&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ENL_190410_LDR_BRIEFING%20(1)&spMailingID=15444335&spUserID=MTY3ODg4NTg1MzQ4S0&spJobID=1620658993&spReportId=MTYyMDY1ODk5MwS2

The epidemic of rural hospital closures is threatening small towns such as Celina, Tenn. The town of 1,500 has been trying to position itself as a retiree destination but that task has grown more difficult since the March 1 closure of 25-bed Cumberland River Hospital.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

Celina became the 11th rural hospital in Tennessee to close in recent years — more than in any state but Texas. Both states have refused to expand Medicaid in a way that covers more of the working poor.

The closest hospital is now 18 miles away. That adds another 30 minutes through mountain roads for those who need an X-ray or bloodwork. For those in the back of an ambulance, that bit of time could mean the difference between life or death.

When a rural community loses its hospital, health care becomes harder to come by in an instant. But a hospital closure also shocks a small town’s economy. It shuts down one of its largest employers. It scares off heavy industry that needs an emergency room nearby. And in one Tennessee town, a lost hospital means lost hope of attracting more retirees.

Seniors, and their retirement accounts, have been viewed as potential saviors for many rural economies trying to make up for lost jobs. But the epidemic of rural hospital closures is threatening those dreams in places like Celina, Tenn. The town of 1,500, whose 25-bed hospital closed March 1, has been trying to position itself as a retiree destination.

“I’d say, look elsewhere,” said Susan Scovel, a Seattle transplant who arrived with her husband in 2015.

Scovel’s despondence is especially noteworthy given she leads the local chamber of commerce effort to attract retirees like herself. She considers the wooded hills and secluded lake to hold scenic beauty comparable to the Washington coast — with dramatically lower costs of living; she and a small committee plan getaway weekends for prospects to visit.

When she first toured the region before moving in 2015, Scovel and her husband, who had Parkinson’s, made sure to scope out the hospital, on a hill overlooking the sleepy town square. And she has rushed to the hospital four times since he died in 2017.

“I have very high blood pressure, and they’re able to do the IVs to get it down,” Scovel said. “This is an anxiety thing since my husband died. So now — I don’t know.”

She can’t in good conscience advise a senior with health problems to come join her in Celina, she said.

When Seconds Count, Delays In Care

Celina’s Cumberland River Hospital had been on life support for years, operated by the city-owned medical center an hour away in Cookeville, which decided in late January to cut its losses after trying to find a buyer. Cookeville Regional Medical Center executives explain that the facility faced the grim reality for many rural providers.

“Unfortunately, many rural hospitals across the country are having a difficult time and facing the same challenges, like declining reimbursements and lower patient volumes, that Cumberland River Hospital has experienced,” CEO Paul Korth said in a written statement.

Celina became the 11th rural hospital in Tennessee to close in recent years — more than in any state but Texas. Both states have refused to expand Medicaid in a way that covers more of the working poor. Even some Republicans now say the decision to not expand Medicaid has added to the struggles of rural health care providers.

The closest hospital is now 18 miles away. That adds another 30 minutes through mountain roads for those who need an X-ray or bloodwork. For those in the back of an ambulance, that bit of time could mean the difference between life or death.

“We have the capability of doing a lot of advanced life support, but we’re not a hospital,” said Natalie Boone, Clay County’s emergency management director.

The area is already limited in its ambulance service, with two of its four trucks out of service.

Once a crew is dispatched, Boone said, it’s committed to that call. Adding an hour to the turnaround time means someone else could likely call with an emergency and be told — essentially — to wait in line.

“What happens when you have that patient that doesn’t have that extra time?” Boone asked. “I can think of at least a minimum of two patients [in the last month] that did not have that time.”

Residents are bracing for cascading effects. Susan Bailey hasn’t retired yet, but she’s close. She has spent nearly 40 years as a registered nurse, including her early career at Cumberland River.

“People say, ‘You probably just need to move or find another place to go,'” she said.

Bailey and others are concerned that losing the hospital will soon mean losing the only three physicians in town. The doctors say they plan to keep their practices going, but for how long? And what about when they retire?

“That’s a big problem,” Bailey said. “The doctors aren’t going to want to come in and open an office and have to drive 20 or 30 minutes to see their patients every single day.”

Closure of the hospital means 147 nurses, aides and clerical staff have to find new jobs. Some employees come to tears at the prospect of having to find work outside the county and are deeply sad that their hometown is losing one of its largest employers — second only to the local school system.

Dr. John McMichen is an emergency physician who would travel to Celina to work weekends at the ER and give the local doctors a break.

“I thought of Celina as maybe the ‘Andy Griffith Show’ of healthcare,” he said.

McMichen, who also worked at the now-shuttered Copper Basin Medical Center, on the other side of the state, said people at Cumberland River knew just about anyone who would walk through the door. That’s why it was attractive to retirees.

“It reminded me of a time long ago that has seemingly passed. I can’t say that it will ever come back,” he said. “I have hopes that there’s still some hope for small hospitals in that type of community. But I think the chances are becoming less of those community hospitals surviving.”

 

“UNFORTUNATELY, RURAL HOSPITALS ACROSS THE COUNTRY ARE HAVING A DIFFICULT TIME AND FACE THE SAME CHALLENGES, LIKE DECLINING REIMBURSEMENTS AND LOWER PATIENT VOLUMES THAT CUMBERLAND RIVER HOSPITAL HAS EXPERIENCED.”

 

 

 

 

Analysis Shows One-in-Five U.S. Rural Hospitals at High Risk of Closing Unless Financial Situation Improves

https://www.navigant.com/news/corporate-news/2019/rural-hospitals-analysis

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/1-in-5-rural-hospitals-at-high-risk-of-closing-analysis-finds.html?origin=cioe&utm_source=cioe

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Twenty-one percent of U.S. rural hospitals are at high risk of closing unless their finances improve, according to an analysis from management consultancy firm Navigant.

The study also found 64 percent, or 277, of high financial risk rural hospitals are considered essential to their communities.

The analysis — which examined the financial viability (operating margin, days cash on hand and debt-to-capitalization ratio) and community essentiality of more than 2,000 of the nation’s rural hospitals — suggests 21 percent or 430 rural hospitals in 43 states are at high risk of closing. These hospitals represent 21,547 staffed beds, 707,000 annual discharges, 150,000 employees and $21.2 billion total patient revenue, according to Navigant.

Of the 43 states, 34 have five or more rural hospitals at risk. 

Navigant cited payer mix degradation; declining inpatient care driving excess capacity; and inability to leverage innovation as factors putting the hospitals at risk. Medicare payment reductions, the age of many rural facilities and a lack of capital to invest in updated, innovative technology were specifically cited.

“While the potential for a rural hospital crisis has been known for years, this predictive data sheds light on just how dire the situation could become,” the study authors concluded. “Now, by being able to accurately assess the economic health of all rural hospitals in America, there is no choice but to pay attention. Local, state and federal political leaders, as well as hospital administrators, must act to protect the well-being of rural hospitals nationwide and the communities they serve.”

Read more about the analysis here

 

2 California hospitals face closure if sale delayed

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/2-california-hospitals-face-closure-if-sale-delayed.html?origin=cfoe&utm_source=cfoe

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Santa Clara County (Calif.) officials criticized California Attorney General Xavier Becerra at a press conference Jan. 24 for trying to block the county’s purchase of two bankrupt hospitals, according to The Mercury News.

In December, the bankruptcy court approved Santa Clara County’s $235 million offer to buy O’Connor Hospital in San Jose and St. Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy from El Segundo, Calif.-based Verity Health, which entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August. Mr. Becerra appealed the bankruptcy court’s approval of the sale earlier this month, putting the deal in jeopardy.

Mr. Becerra is seeking to halt the sale because Santa Clara County has not agreed to conditions put in place in 2015 when private hedge fund Blue Mountain Capital acquired six hospitals owned by Los Altos, Calif.-based Daughters of Charity Health System. The deal and name change to Verity were approved, subject to several conditions.

“In this case, we have the responsibility to ensure any transfer of the hospital maintains previously imposed conditions,” Mr. Becerra’s office said in an emailed statement to The Mercury News. “The conditions include the requirement to have an emergency room, inpatient facility beds, intensive care services, and NICU. The Attorney General is fighting to ensure these conditions are enforced.”

At the Jan. 24 press conference, Santa Clara County CEO Jeff Smith, MD, said Mr. Becerra cares more about maintaining “power and control” over regulations than local residents’ access to public hospitals, according to the report.

A bankruptcy court hearing on Mr. Becerra’s request to halt the sale of the hospitals is set for Jan. 30. Dr. Smith said the outcome of the hearing could determine whether the hospitals shut down.

“If that stay is granted, that will delay the process … and it is highly likely those hospitals will close,” he said, according to The Mercury News.

O’Connor Hospital and St. Louise Regional Hospital are two of the six hospitals Verity operated when it filed for bankruptcy protection. On Jan. 18, Verity announced it had received a $610 million offer for the other four hospitals.

 

 

Healthcare Triage: Rural Hospital Closures Impact the Health of a Lot of People

https://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/healthcare-triage-rural-hospital-closures-impact-the-health-of-a-lot-of-people/

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Rural hospitals in the United States are having an increasingly hard time staying in business. Which is not great for the health of people who live in areas that no longer have a hospital.

This episode was adapted from a column Austin wrote for The Upshot. Links to sources can be found there.