“Last week Prowers Medical Center was listed as one of the top 100 critical access hospitals in the nation which puts us in the top 7.5%,” stated hospital CEO, Craig Loveless. He was briefing the Prowers County Commissioners on an update of events at the hospital on Tuesday, February 21st. Loveless explained that there are 1,330 critical access hospitals nationwide and the study takes into consideration such criteria as quality of care, financial performance and patient satisfaction. “We must score in all of them to be under consideration. A few years ago we were right on the edge of that acknowledgement and now we’re on track for all aspects of the assessment,” he added.
With regard to financial operation, Loveless said the hospital is in good shape, but it’s becoming an uphill battle working against the impact of the Provider Fee and recent cutbacks on the state funded program. “The State Medicaid program reimburses hospitals for unreimbursed costs. We get paid 30% on the dollar for Medicaid and this helps cover the gap for the 70% balance that we don’t realize. Now, that has been cut back another 13% for this fiscal year. The governor said he wanted to take another 42% of that fee to go to the state budget, so those funds are being routed directly from the hospital revenue and health care and being put into the state budget,” he explained.
He said this matter is before the state legislature for consideration in May, but the hospital has begun to reserve funds if there has to be a payback. “Our budget was approved this past December and these changes in funding came in January. They have had a significant impact on our first month’s budget. We had no way of knowing this was coming until it happened. Almost 80% of our patient base is through Medicaid and Medicare. Our reimbursement on Medicare is 98 cents on the dollar. With the loss of 2% revenue there and 30% on Medicaid, that leaves 20% of the population base to make up the shortfall.” Loveless said the hospital has done well over the past two years and he is grateful for the community support, but this is a future issue the hospital will have to address and work on ways to improve services and grow the top line on the balance sheet.
“We’re continuing to expand our collaboration efforts with High Plains Community Health Center in obstetrics as one area. Our transfer of information and patient care provides continuous care for the mother as after her 32nd week of pregnancy under High Plains, she begins visits with hospital staff and our specialist until just after the birth,” he told the commissioners. Loveless said PMC will hold the annual health fair May 9-11 and in six months, High Plains will schedule theirs for a time in November. “We actually lose money over these, but it’s a benefit to provide these tests at either no cost or a low cost to the community, so it helps improve the health status of the community as a whole.” Dr. Patrick Laird has left his post of Chief Medical Officer at the hospital and is following his specialty of in-patient acute care on a full-time basis. He is on a seven day off and seven day on schedule which allows a breathing spell for the other medical providers for the High Plains Clinic and us.”
Loveless detailed how the on-going Community Health Based Assessment is developing and showing a new health trend in the community. “For a while obesity was the number one health concern in our area and there’s been a recent shift. Now, concerns over drug abuse have become the number one issue.” Loveless explained the assessment is another collaboration among the hospital, HPCHC, Southeast Mental Health and the County Public Health Department where director, Tammi Clark can use the information for her required health plan for the Prowers County community. “We’ve got good support, but we’re not completely equipped to deal with this at the hospital,” Loveless said, adding, “We need to figure out a way to adequately address this and treat it, but not from a band aid approach. We need to do more than just help a person go through withdrawals in rehab and then fall back to their old ways” Loveless said the newly developed Big Timbers Alliance can help deal with these issues. Hospital staff is in key positions to help, including participation in the local Substance Abuse Task Force which meets monthly.
In other areas, Loveless said the hospital is providing a meeting place for a local Alzheimer’s support group. There is a high incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in the community. PMC is not overseeing the meeting, just providing a meeting room on the third Thursday of every month from 11am to Noon. March 30th is Doctor’s Day at the hospital. He said there is no set time as yet, but the public is invited to come out and meet with their medical providers, probably later in the afternoon once patient rounds have been cleared. Dr. Steve Foley, Ob-gyn began his practice at PMC at the end of last year and Dr. Diane Foley, a pediatrician, is schedule begin her practice in early May for several days a week in the PMG Clinic.
By Russ Baldwin
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