RRH CEO says redesignation averted bankruptcy

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

As unofficial reports of impending physician departures and loss of healthcare access circulated through the community, aided in part by social media, Ridgecrest Regional Hospital CEO Jim Suver sent out an update Tuesday that shows trending improvement in the hospital that has struggled through simultaneous funding reductions and loans that funded expansion of facilities and services.

“I know people have some concerns about losing access to the hospital and to their favorite physicians,” said Suver. “Although we have made some restructuring changes on paper in order to best leverage our limited resources, at this point we have not lost beds, physician access or services for the patients we serve.”

The data point that seems to have caused the greatest concern is the hospital’s redesignation last year to a Critical Access Hospital. In an earlier interview with the News Review, Suver explained that the new distinction allows the hospital to capture a higher reimbursement rate for providing healthcare services.

At the same time, the hospital took on repayment of the $72-million patient-care tower that was completed in 2010.

“We were at a point where we were mandated to provide services that were reimbursed at only a fraction of what they cost to deliver. Since this was not sustainable long term — we were writing off about $7 million in unpaid medical bills each year — we recommended to the board that we become a CAH in order to solve our fiscal crisis,” said Suver.

Because of the way the CAH regulations are written, the 80-bed facility is now limited to 25 inpatients. However, Suver explained, that does not include additional capacity for outpatient services, observation and skilled nursing.

He said that change in 2012 put the hospital in a much stronger fiscal position. “Our focus in 2013 is building a stronger and more trusting relationship with the people we serve,” Suver wrote in his community update.

Measures to increase quality assurance have helped boost patient satisfaction numbers from about 82 percent to about 94 percent from 2009 to 2012.

Suver said that a climate of financial crises and diminishing resources on all fronts has necessitated creative solutions to preserving local resources. Because of constantly shifting factors that drive changes at the hospital, Suver said he will be releasing monthly updates covering changes and major developments, as well as key challenges and issues.

“We also encourage two-way communication between you and our hospital to discuss any questions or concerns. Our goal is to let you know what’s going on so that you may make choices based on facts.”

Story First Published: 2013-02-20