Forks Community Hospital changes long-term care

Facility seeks advisory committee members

FORKS — Forks Community Hospital shares many of the challenges facing other local health systems — the lingering negative impact of COVID-19, recruiting and retaining staff, older patients with more chronic conditions — CEO Heidi Anderson told the Forks Chamber of Commerce.

It is now in the process of changing the most significant barrier to continuing delivery of high-quality services, expanding services to meet the needs of the community and remaining economically viable: addressing over $2.5 million in yearly losses from its long-term care operations, she said on May 3.

“This is an urgent priority,” Anderson said. “That cost for 2022 is going to be even higher.”

The losses are caused by inadequate Medicaid reimbursements, which do not cover half of the cost of care, and the difference of which is paid by the hospital, Anderson said.

To help check the losses, the hospital’s leadership team and board of commissioners decided to transition 20 long-term care beds to non-skilled swing beds that can be used interchangeably between intermediate or skilled nursing care and for which Medicare reimbursement levels are higher.

“Our focus is preserving and protecting healthcare services available locally,” Anderson said. “Even when those decisions are hard, we know that they were made after deliberation and grounded in sound strategy.”

The hospital created the Healthier West End website to provide information on the changes in long-term care services and to answer questions at https://www.healthierwestend.org.

Anderson said the hospital is moving ahead to provide services that are missing on the West End to provide residents a better quality of life.

“One of the things you’re going to see soon is we are putting together a palliative care program,” Anderson said. “It will help support people to stay in their homes, hopefully decrease their trips to the doctor or even a hospital stay.”

The hospital has also made a number of facilities upgrades, from replacing its aging boilers to installing LED lighting.

“We’ve put in a total of $11 million in infrastructure and upkeep,” she said.

Financial stability and viability will allow it at some point to replace the existing hospital, as well.

We can’t grow anymore where we’re at,” Anderson said. “we really would like to get to the point where we can build a robust facility that will meet the needs of the community and move into the future.”

Even with the changes in long-term care, a new interventional pain program, more capacity for physical therapy services and some price increases, the hospital will lose $250,000 the first quarter of this year.

“That is a lot of money,” Anderson said. “We got an influx of COVID funds, which is great, but our volumes aren’t what here they need to be.” Insurers, she said are also making greater demands for authorizing payments.

Anderson said that the hospital is seeking community members for an advisory group of about 14 to collaborate and create a plan for future healthcare services.

“Planning for the future of health for the West End involves collaborating with community stakeholders,” Anderson said. “The work we do at FCH must be grounded in community and focus on the wide-ranging factors that help us to remain a viable community asset and respond to the emerging and ongoing health and medical needs of the residents of the West End.”

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Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at Paula.Hunt@soundpublishing.com

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