Loyalton SNF Takes Another Hit 110911
There was a time, when Loyalton was a commercial hub of the county, when Sierra Valley Community Hospital gave birth to new generations of Valley residents. The original hospital eventually gave way, optimistically to a new facility with a new SNF to care for aging residents. In the 1980s the hospital saw its role changing; the operating room was finally shut down after remaining unused for several years, and no more babies would be born there. It still had an ER which regularly served mill workers, lumber jacks and farmers. The 1990s saw increasing hard times and Loyalton District Hospital saw its role change again. The Skilled Nursing Facility, which seemed like a sure thing when the new hospital was built, began to suffer as the Feds were no longer willing to fully reimburse hospitals for such costs.
After going through a number of attempts at solvency, including a substantial loan, the facility was sold to Eastern Plumas Health Care in 2003. The problems which plagued the district when it was free standing continue to plague EPHC.
Most currently, EPHC learned that the state had been granted permission from the feds to cut reimbursement for skilled nursing facility beds. The cut amounts to 1.1 million dollars, or a 23% cut.
An article by Linda Satchwell in last week’s Portola Reporter says EPHC was informed October 27th that the 23% reduction was retroactive to June, leaving the hospital holding the bag for services already provided.
The 59 SNF beds represent a large part of EPHC’s income, and support the hospital, with nine acute beds,
four clinics including a dental clinic, and emergency and outpatient services. Without EPHC services the community, particularly those already hard hit by economic times, will experience a dramatic down turn. Residents in Eastern Sierra and Plumas counties will have to travel to receive medical help, increasing the cost and time involved and discouraging some from appropriate treatment.
According to Satchwell, management staff at EPHC is working on plan to save what of the system they can. The health system is close to going into default on some USDA loans. CEO Tom Hayes is quoted as saying there are “zero days of cash” in reserve. EPHC has to trim or add $100,000 a month; this doesn’t seem likely in the current market.
Should the SNF facilities have to close, places would have to be found for the 59 residents. Loyalton houses 32 of those residents; there are only 7 beds empty in the facility. The facility employs 29 medical staff and an addition 14 support staff.
It remains to be seen what the shock team at EPHC can do to save some of the system. Latest reports say pay cuts across to board for staff effective November 21, a 20% increase for some outpatient services, though some of those might be offset by insurance, and EPHC plans to offer specials on those services, like mammograms and blood test. There will be a published schedule of specials. These and some other cost cutting methods and hoped for savings might well save the SNFs and the health system. A proposed law suit calling for an injunction of the cuts might buy some time, but EPHC won’t be the only hospital using such a tactic.
It would help if everyone in the Eastern Plumas, Eastern Sierra county area would use EPHC clinics and facilities. Unless help comes from somewhere, community health care will be a thing of the past in the east county. At a time when the burden of living rural is increasing, the state has increased the misery index for Loyalton and all of us in the east county who use and appreciate EPHC services.
There is hope that, once again, some last minute plan will save Loyalton. The loss of jobs and the loss of a cherished community institution would constitute yet another blow for Loyalton. The state is reneging on its promises and responsibility to the elderly and ill, and the aftermath will likely mean more families leaving for somewhere else. Let’s hope the administrative staff at EPHC can work a miracle.
You can find more information and updates on the EPHC website (link to original story, as well).
Use local services, or don’t complain when they are gone!