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WARSAW — Rural hospitals still have to provide high-level care 24 hours a day, Wyoming County Community Health System CEO Don Eichenauer noted, even though they may not have the number of patients to afford that level of service.
The reality of care in areas with low populations and high usage of Medicare is acknowledged, as is the truth that without additional support, the system doesn’t work.
“We are providing a high level of care, and when we have less patients to allocate some of those expenses over; and the requirements the federal government has put in — it can be difficult,” Eichenauer said.
WCCHS has anticipated $600,000 to $700,000 in Low-Volume Hospital program support, which bridges the gap between needs and receipts.
A federal budget agreement approved last week will continue funding that has been essential for hospitals like Warsaw’s.
Funding for the Low-Volume Hospital program has flowed from Washington for three decades, but faces a regular debate in short-term budget deals.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-NY, said securing a five-year extension for the LVH and Medicare-Dependent Hospital programs in the most recent budget extender will provide relief to healthcare providers in Genesee, Livingston and Wyoming counties over federal fiscal years 2018 to 2022.
• Wyoming County Community Health System in Warsaw is receiving $3.15 million.
“Having this passed (is reassuring), because it did expire in October, so we have not been getting regular funds since that time,” Eichenauer said. “We’ve had a number of times when it’s expired. When it was not in place it creates a lot of difficulty in budgeting and not knowing where our funding is.”
Eichenauer said the funding will give greater confidence among administrators, staff and patients that services can be maintained, that jobs are retained and care is improved.
• Nicholas H. Noyes Memorial Hospital in Dansville is receiving $2.4 million.
Amy Pollard, the president and CEO of Noyes Health, said the funding provides essential upgrades.
“I am very grateful to Senator Schumer who has been a long standing advocate for rural healthcare providers,” Pollard told The Livingston County News. “The Low-Volume Hospital adjustment is a necessary supplement to maintain the financial stability of any rural hospital, including Noyes Hospital. LVH adjustments are used in many ways such as replacing patient equipment, purchasing supplies and helping to offset uncompensated care.”
• United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia is receiving $352,000. Robert Chiavetta, the hospital’s vice president of finance and CFO, said UMMC has previously had a patient volume that exceeded the maximum for LVH qualification.
“Opportunities like the Low-Volume Hospital Program can play a significant role in helping hospitals like United Memorial Medical Center make key investments in patient care and life-changing services,” Chiavetta said. “We are excited about this budget announcement and the Low-Volume Hospital Program’s adjusted requirements to begin in the 2019 federal fiscal year. Our team will further evaluate the new criteria and the process to secure this funding.”
In all, two dozen New York hospitals benefit from the programs.
“These hospitals serve a vital public need, employ several thousand New Yorkers across the state, and they deserve our support and long-term certainty in their continuous efforts to provide the highest level of care to residents,” Schumer said.
“With the passage of the budget deal, we were able to give our hospitals, patients, and employees some peace of mind and give these hospitals across New York State a clean bill of health … now, these hospitals can continue to provide high-quality healthcare and serve as the lifeblood of rural communities across Upstate New York.”
Schumer, along with Sen. Charles Grassley, R-IA, previously introduced a bill to the current Congress that would have permanently extended the rural hospital programs. The passed version revises payment formulas that increased the number of hospitals that benefited.