By Deb Murphy
The last patient left Southern Inyo Hospital’s Skilled Nursing Facility Wednesday and with it any ability of SIH to provide medical services.
The Rural Health Clinic is still operative, but without the affiliation with the hospital, its reimbursement rate for Medical and Medicare patients drops. Staff will gain entry through a back door to continue with administrative functions.
The new three-person Board was advised by a California Department of Public Health official the department would suspend or revoke the hospital’s license if no decision was made by January 5 (see release from Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce following this story).
Despite this grim reality discussed at Wednesday’s Board meeting, there is still hope in the form of Dr. Benny Benzeevi of Healthcare Conglomerate Associates. Following success with a private/public partnership with Tulare Local Healthcare District, Benzeevi outlined his plan to hopefully bring SIH back from the brink and invest HCCA funds in that possibility.
“It’s a lot of work and a lot of risk,” he told the Board, hospital and county staff and another standing-room-only meeting at the Lone Pine hospital.
Benzeevi was vague about what the agreement would cost the district, saying just that his company would participate in the eventual profits. The devil in those details will be contained in an agreement HCCA was slated to provide to Board members for discussion and decision at a meeting Saturday, Jan. 2.
HCCA and Benzeevi were brought into the fray by District 26 Assemblyman Devon Mathis following a phone call for help from Supervisor Matt Kingsley.
The miracle of Tulare included retention of all employees and a reorganization that focused on keeping patients healthy, what he described as “the new healthcare paradigm” required by the Affordable Care Act.
The Tulare hospital’s value increased by $12 million in one year and showed a profit within the first three months of HCCA management following years of losses up to $1 million a month.
At the end of a six-hour meeting, interrupted by an extended closed session to discuss possible litigation and personnel matters, Benzeevi went into more detail. “We (HCCA) run the hospital,” he said. “But the public entity holds the assets. It’s about doing it differently not a matter of doing it more efficiently or better.”
The first goal would be to bring the Skilled Nursing Facility back in operation and find a doctor to re-open the Emergency Room. “We have a team on standby now,” he said. “The Affordable Care Act makes it more beneficial to keep people healthy. We’ll see what services it takes to keep this community healthy and we’ll create those services.”
(This story was originally filed on Dec. 30)
From the Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce