A back-up plan

Agreement signed between area hospitals

The Memorial Hospital and Yampa Valley Medical Center have entered into a network agreement in which Yampa Valley Medical Center will accept patients that cannot receive necessary care at TMH.

At Wednesday night's board of trustees meeting, TMH board members approved the agreement with the Yampa Valley Medical Center.

The agreement was necessary for TMH to become a critical access hospital.

Trustees voted last fall to convert TMH to critical access status, which makes the hospital eligible for cost-based reimbursements from the federal government for Medicare patients.

The program, which was created by the federal government to aid rural hospitals, will increase TMH's annual net income by almost $1 million.

In order to be eligible for the program, TMH had to enter into a contract with another hospital in which that hospital made a commitment to receive and treat patients from TMH.

"Critical access guidelines stipulate that the hospital must have a network relationship with another hospital," said TMH Administrator Randy Phelps. "Basically it's a transfer agreement saying if we were to go over the maximum of 15 patients they would take the additional patients."

In order to be classified as critical access, a hospital cannot have more than 15 inpatients at one time.

"If we were to get to 15 patients it would be good to have a forced relationship," Phelps said.

But it is rare that this will occur, Phelps said.

"In the past 600 days we have been over the maximum inpatient number one time," Phelps said.

Board member Ron Danner did not see where the agreement changed the current relationship between the two hospitals.

"Correct me if I'm wrong but this doesn't change our transfer habits already in place," Danner said.

Phelps said there is a slight difference.

"We've had an agreement for about five years for the transfer of trauma patients," Phelps said. "This expands that to all patients."

Board member Don Myers asked what would be done in the case of a mass casualty situation, for example a bus or van accident. Phelps said under no circumstance would patients be turned away in order for the hospital to stay under the maximum of 15.

"There's no limitation on the number of patients that can be admitted to the emergency room," he said.

Phelps said he doubted a hospital's critical access status would be stripped away if a hospital were to receive more than the 15-patient maximum in the case of a disaster.

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