RRH moves forward with expansion projects

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

RRH moves forward with expansion projectsWhile Republican leaders are expressing disappointment with the Senate’s failure on Monday to pass a bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act, the development resulted in a collective sense of relief from stewards of local healthcare — who have hedged on moving forward with plans to expand services and improve infrastructure as long as future funding remained uncertain.

“The Board of Directors [of Ridgecrest Regional Hospital], with the support of administration, have decided at this time to continue our present business plans, including the new emergency department, cancer treatment program with UC Davis and new information technology,” RRH CEO Jim Suver wrote in a statement following the executive board’s Tuesday night meeting.

“We reviewed the current state of congressional action regarding repeal of the ACA, our best guess about future developments and a detailed analysis of our financial position. RRH will evaluate the environment and as needed revalidate any future plans to ensure that the hospital is able to continue to provide essential services to our community.”

Suver has been candid with his staff, as well as the public, about the grave impacts proposed healthcare reforms could have on the local institution. He estimated that the hospital stood to lose $10 million a year in reimbursements for compulsory services.

After the House passed a bill in May, Suver said that he was depending on the Senate for a less draconian solution. When the Senate proposal came to light, it turned out to be equally bad for rural institutions like RRH.

“Probably the most sleep-losing topic for me is the Senate healthcare bill,” Suver wrote to his employees in a July 14 e-mail. “None of the new amendments released on Thursday significantly change the damaging impact these proposed regulations will have on RRH.”

He thanked those who reached out to elected officials, and noted that both California senators were among those — who also included key Republicans — who opposed the bill.

“As much as I would like to sugar-coat the impact, I feel it is better to be straightforward with my best guess on how we would possibly deal with the forecasted decreases in funding,” Suver continued.

He followed with a list of actions he was prepared to take, including deferred expansion and improvement projects, but promised to protect essential services and do everything possible to avoid massive layoffs.

But in light of the latest developments, the board emboldened Suver to move forward with plans made possible by the hospital’s present financial security.

“The overwhelming consensus from the board is that RRH will continue its leadership position in enhancing health care in our community,” he said in his statement this week.

“We are hopeful that any changes to healthcare financing at the federal and state level will continue to allow us to accomplish our vision.”

However, the stalled congressional initiative does not necessarily signify the end of reform measures. Democratic leaders in the state legislature are moving forward to explore implementing a single-payer system in California.

While Suver expressed concern about how the state can afford a program that will cost twice as much as its combined general fund, he said that finding more efficient and affordable ways to equitably deliver health care needs to be addressed.

“And this is the perfect time to have that conversation. We just need to pay close attention, and stay engaged.”

Suver said that he has been in touch with both California senators and that he will continue his efforts to engage with elected officials. “Your support and actions in informing our legislators of the importance of adequate healthcare funding will further our purpose as well.”

Story First Published: 2017-07-21