By JOSH NICHOLS
Daily Press writer
The Memorial Hospital staff has agreed that becoming a critical access hospital is a good idea.
Now it's time to see what the public thinks.
At 7 p.m. Thursday at the Holiday Inn of Craig, Hospital Administrator Randy Phelps will give a presentation outlining the benefits and disadvantages of becoming a critical access care facility.
One addition to the presentation on a complicated issue, he said, is a one sentence defining a critical access hospital.
"A critical access hospital is a small rural hospital that has been deemed by the government to be so vitally important to the continuance of quality health care for its served population, that it deserves special payment arrangements with Medicare," Phelps said.
The special payments add up to about $1.1 million a year, he said.
Thursday night's presentation comes on the heels of a hospital staff meeting Tuesday morning in which the hospital staff voted in favor of becoming a critical access hospital.
Dr. Allan Reishus, chief of staff at TMH, said the majority of the staff was in favor of the reclassification, but it was not a unanimous vote.
One doctor in particular, who Reishus would not identify, had concerns about the ramifications of becoming labeled as critical access.
"He was concerned about the issue of the hospital not being able to have more than 15 acute care patients," Reishus said. "But the rest of the staff and I think there are ways to treat people effectively through the swing bed program. The swing bed program will allow us to keep 10 additional people."
The issue Reishus spoke of was in regard to one of the requirements of a hospital becoming critical access.
The requirement is that the hospital can have a maximum acute care inpatient census of 15 patients.
Saying the hospital can only have 15 patients is misleading, Reishus said.
Patients can be served as in patients, out patients, emergency room patients and swing bed patients.
Under critical access, the hospital would implement a swing bed system, a more long term system of care different from acute care, in which 10 patients can be served in addition to the 15 acute care patients.
Overall, the majority of the staff found the pros outweighing the cons, Reishus said.
The staff could not ignore the tremendous cost benefits for the hospital, he said.
Phelps said the decision about converting to critical access is on the agenda for the Nov. 28 board meeting.
"The board can decide if they want to make a decision to go critical access this month," Phelps said. "Right now it's in the board's court."
Phelps said Thursday night's presentation will likely be the only one given to the public in regard to critical access.
As the hospital continues along its plans to build a new hospital, public meetings will be held to address the concerns of the community in regard to that issue, he said.
If people have questions in regard to critical access and cannot make the Thursday night meeting, Phelps encouraged residents to call him at 824-9411 and he would try to answer their questions.