PORT ANGLES — As U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer toured Olympic Medical Center, much of the conversation was about the potential reversal of the site-neutral ruling for rural hospitals in November.
Site Neutral has been in effect since 2019, cutting Medicare reimbursements by 60 percent for hospitals and clinics more than 250 yards from the main hospital campus, a move that disproportionally affects rural hospitals like OMC, officials have said.
This loss of funds resulted in OMC having to make cuts in its operation officials described as devastating. These included shelving a planned expansion of its Sequim campus and stalling the hiring of primary care providers, and other critical staff.
If the ruling were to continue, OMC could lose over $47 million in 10 years’ time.
“Part of the losses we were able to mitigate —moved a lot of Medicare heavy services into one location,” OMC CEO Darryl Wolfe said Monday during the tour.
“Sequim will be the big winner if this gets reversed because we will be able to provide services there such as ambulatory surgery and additional primary care services,”
“Basically all the things we needed to put off we can bring back,” he said.
Kilmer — who represents the 6th Congressional District, which includes the North Olympic Peninsula, and who is up for reelection this year — said he has been working with CMS to reverse the ruling, which it announced it would consider following a public comment period, which will be open until Sept. 13.
To read the proposed rule, go to tinyurl.com/mu8cw52n. To submit a comment, go to https://tinyurl.com/39snm98s. Comments, including mass comment submissions, can be submitted electronically through http://www.regulations.gov; send by U.S. Postal Service to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Department of Health and Human Services, Attention: CMS-1772-P, P.O. Box 8010, Baltimore, MD 21244-1810.
It can also be address by express or overnight mail to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Department of Health and Human Services, Attention: CMS-1772-P, Mail Stop C4-26-05, 7500 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21244-1850.
Human Resources Manager Jennifer Burkhardt spoke to Kilmer about OMC’s struggling to hire a workforce after putting it off for so long.
“That’s one of the most expensive elements of our operations is the labor,” Burkhardt said.
“Hiring is going well in the sense that we continue to hire … but we have an inordinate amount of traveling and locums providers and that creates an additional expense that is really hitting our bottom line,” she said.
Burkhardt said more than 300 positions are open at OMC. The hardest to fill are those for skilled medical technicians and nurses, she added.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.