By JOSH NICHOLS
Daily Press writer
Congress has offered a funding solution to the revenue problems many rural hospitals across the country face, and The Memorial Hospital in Craig has decided to take advantage of it.
Board of Trustees member Jack Bonaker stated this was his reason voting in favor of the TMH administration pursuing the option of converting TMH to critical access hospital status.
The rest of the board shared his feelings unanimously approving the plan to convert to critical access at Wednesday night's board of trustees meeting.
The vote was taken shortly after the official report was given that the hospital staff had approved converting to critical access by a vote of 12-1 at a staff meeting two weeks ago.
By converting to critical access, TMH would position itself for federal funding in the form of cost-based reimbursements for Medicare patients. These reimbursements are projected at approximately $1 million in additional annual revenue for the hospital.
The program was first set up by the federal government in 1997 to aide struggling small rural hospitals.
To be eligible for a critical access qualification, a hospital must be at least 35 miles from the nearest hospital, participate in Medicare, provide year around 24-hour emergency room service, have a length of stay average of less than four days, and have a maximum acute care inpatient census of 15 patients.
TMH fits all these requirements.
According to the staff report, the one vote against going critical access was due to a doctor's concerns about the maximum acute care census of 15 patients.
He saw critical access as a financial incentive for the hospital not to grow.
But TMH administrator Randy Phelps pointed out that the hospital's average daily census is 6.3, well under the 15 patient maximum.
Board member Sue Lyster also had a counter for the doctor's concern.
"If we get to a point where we have 15 patients, we'll be making enough money to go off critical access," she said.
Phelps offered advice to the board as it weighed its decision prior to the vote.
"If we're going to act on it, now is as good a time as any," he said. "It would be my recommendation that if you're in favor, you should approve it and leave the timing to the staff."
In its motion, the board did not put time constraints on when it wanted to see the conversion completed, but asked that the board be kept up to date on where the staff is at in the process.
"We just want a report back to make sure things are going as planned," said board member Don Myers.
In other business Wednesday night, the board:
Approved the operating budget plan for 2002.
Approved the capital budget plan for 2002.
Approved the lease financing for CPSI computer software and related hardware, which will cost $787,108.
Approved the purchases of a neonatal intensive care center, an air shield baby warmer and a patient positioning chair for the operating room.