By Deb Murphy
Just a year ago, the Lone Pine community met at Statham Hall for what turned out to be the start of Southern Inyo Hospital’s near collapse. Within two months, the hospital had no administrator, no board and no license.
Fast forward to November 2016 with apologies for using medical analogies: the patient has been resuscitated and is breathing on its own. There are still hurdles to jump; the district isn’t ready for wind sprints.
But with the influx of funding, expertise, physician staffing and administration from Healthcare Conglomerate Associates, strong board members and community support, most hospital functions are back to pre-closing levels, according to board chair Dick Fedchenko.
Chief Restructuring Officer Alan Germany ran through the numbers at last week’s board meeting: the Rural Health Clinic, physical therapy, emergency room, lab and radiology are all holding steady.
The area for growth is the Skilled Nursing Facility with a capacity of 33 patients and 14 current residents. Staffing, specifically LVNs and CNAs, is the obstacle between current and potential numbers. That shortage isn’t unique to the Lone Pine facility. Apparently, not everybody wants to move to a relatively isolated community where housing is an issue.
The SNF provided on-site training and certification for CNAs prior to losing its license and has begun the long process of reestablishing the program.
The district board voted to file for bankruptcy at a marathon meeting in early January. That process is near completion with satisfactory agreements reached with the district’s debtors according to Fedchenko. Now the task is paying the bills going forward.
Germany and staff have been pursing Intergovernmental Transfers, a fund-matching program that allows districts to tap into federal Medicaid funds as well as other funding sources.
HCCA’s Cynthia Rios outlined the Rural Health Clinic’s pilot program on population health management, the focus under the Affordable Care Act, funded under the Public Hospital Redesign and Incentives in Medi-Cal program to the tune of $1.1 million, netting SIH $562,000.
The skeleton board of Jaque Hickman, Mark Lacey and Fedchenko, all of whom had to take a crash course in healthcare, will be joined by Carma Roper and Chuck Carson. “Now we can start thinking about where we’re going,” said Fedchenko.