By John Beckman • Guest Columnist
About eight months ago I had a misunderstanding with a pile of lumber which, when resolved, left me with shattered right wrist. Yes, that right wrist, just like the one you use everyday. Two surgeries and a stack of medical bills later there is still a lot of recovery yet to do, both physically and financially.
My wife and I have paid for private health insurance out-of-pocket every month for the past 25 years. Our policy has a $5,000 deductible that we pay before the insurance kicks in and then we pay 30 percent of all covered expenses after that, as well as all the uncovered ones. Even a relatively minor incident can end up costing plenty.
Haywood County’s hospital was in trouble. The average number of patients staying overnight had dropped precipitously, causing severe problems to the hospital’s cash flow. The relationship between the administration and most of the physicians was fractured. Many of those doctors and many Haywood County citizens feared the hospital might close if it didn’t adapt to the fast-changing health care landscape.
Though that sounds eerily similar to just a few years ago, it was 1993. I was a new-to-the-job 33-year-old editor of The Mountaineer in Waynesville. i was just a few months in town when rumblings of the hospital’s woes began trickling out. A group of five or six doctors decided they wanted the local media to hear their side — off the record — and so invited my wife and I to a dinner at one of their homes.
Three weeks after a fire in the power room knocked out electricity at Haywood Regional Medical Center, the hospital is fully open and accepting patients. The hospital had already opened its emergency department and business offices back up on June 30 after getting a double generator backup system in place but had to hold off accepting inpatients until getting back on Duke Energy power.
“We are incredibly pleased with the pace of this process,” said Janie Sinacore-Jaberg, the hospital’s president and CEO. “I said all along that we weren’t going to rush it, and we didn’t. We did everything correctly, methodically and in a very organized way.”
The hospital accepted its first inpatients following the fire on July 10. Because the length of stay for most inpatients is on the short side, patients who were transferred to neighboring hospitals during the closure are not being transferred back, said Christina Deidesheimer, director of strategy and marketing.
“I don’t believe that we transferred back any patients from other facilities,” she said. “The length of stay for most patients is pretty short, so most likely most of these patients that we have [moved] have been discharged.”
The hospital has not yet finished negotiations with the insurance company, so there’s no word yet on how much of the lost profit from the closure a claim might recoup. There’s also no verdict yet on what caused the fire in the first place.
“That investigation’s still ongoing,” Deidesheimer said. “We wish these things would happen within a couple weeks, but unfortunately they take quite a long time.”
The sale of the MedWest hospital trio in Haywood, Jackson and Swain counties will be finalized by the end of July.
Duke LifePoint HealthCare, a national for-profit hospital network, will take over Aug. 1, ending a long legacy of local, independent ownership of the community hospitals.
Haywood Regional Medical Center is on its way to recovery after a small fire in its power room earlier this month knocked out the electrical system, closing the hospital and causing its 62 patients to be shuttled to hospitals in neighboring counties.
There’s a new option for dental care in the region.
“We call it a community service learning center,” explained Michael Scholtz, assistant dean for extramural clinical practices at East Carolina University’s School of Dental Medicine.
A rash of medical complications hit inmates in the Haywood County jail over the past year, socking the county with a $100,000 cost overrun.
Blame lies in part with a handful of big ticket procedures — a major stroke, heart bypass surgery, a heart catheterization following a heart attack for another. But there was also a run on more minor hospitalizations.
Hospitals in North Carolina face a catch-22 of the worst kind: the $600 million kind, the kind they have no control over, the kind that involves politics.
Hospitals in North Carolina are seeing a financial hit they can ill-afford after state lawmakers in the General Assembly turned down the federal government’s offer to expand Medicaid last year. It would have added 500,000 uninsured poor to Medicaid rolls.
Republican lawmakers in North Carolina are standing by their controversial decision last year to deny Medicaid expansion to 500,000 low-income people who otherwise lacked health coverage.
Some Democrats in the General Assembly are pushing to revisit Medicaid expansion, however. The legislative season had barely gotten underway last week when a group of Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill that would reverse course on Medicaid expansion.
The clock is ticking for the fundraising foundations of Haywood Regional Medical Center and Harris Regional Hospital to spend earmarked money in their coffers to benefit the hospitals.