The decision last week by federal authorities to revoke the hospital’s right to receive both Medicare and Medicaid money means 68 percent of HRMC’s revenue is lost. That’s money that can’t be replaced, meaning it will force the hospital and many of its physicians into a short-term financial crunch. The earliest the money can start flowing again is 30 days, but that’s only if the hospital meets necessary benchmarks on the earliest inspection date possible. It could, however, take several months.
That means medical staff at doctor’s offices could face temporary layoffs or reductions in pay. The whole community will feel the pinch of losing this money. In addition, if things don’t get back on track quickly, some of the more than 900 jobs at the hospital could be in jeopardy.
The Medicare inspections and the lack of notice about the problems given to board members, the medical staff and the community led to the resignation Monday of CEO David Rice. It’s unclear whether the board demanded his resignation or if he offered it, but the details aren’t that important. Rice took the fall, admitting that the current crisis will best be solved by diverting attention away from who is to blame and putting energy into moving forward. He’s absolutely right.
HRMC knows it needs to get these funding issues straightened out, and it needs to mend the strained relationship between the medical staff and the administration. These problems can be solved, especially in the current atmosphere of crisis where almost everyone wants what’s best for the citizens of Haywood County and the hospital. Right now, everyone wants to work together. A lot can be accomplished under those circumstances.
Some have suggested a merger with one of the other hospitals in Western North Carolina might quickly solve the funding problem. That would not best serve Haywood County. With 55,000 citizens and an even larger seasonal population, the county is plenty large enough to support its own hospital, and the problems it now faces aren’t insurmountable.
There is a dedicated, talented pool of doctors practicing in Haywood County. They want the hospital to move beyond these problems, as do county leaders and citizens who take great pride in having a top-notch health care facility they can call their own. There are also many nurses, therapists and other medical professionals who want the hospital to bounce back from this crisis.
It can happen, but it is going to take some work. County commissioners should meet exclusively to discuss this situation. Economic development officials need to be involved. Community leaders should jump in. The entire county needs to roll up its sleeves and get to work if it wants to help the hospital back to health at this critical time.