Gift baskets, congratulatory emails and cards of thanks from hospitals around the state should be arriving at Eastern Plumas Health Care this week. … Well, maybe they won’t, but they should.
Thanks to EPHC’s hard work, research and persistence, our little hospital managed to accomplish something that state legislators could not — the hospital convinced the Department of Health Care Services to grant EPHC’s request for an exemption from the potentially devastating skilled nursing Medi-Cal cuts.
“It is tremendously good news for us,” hospital CEO Tom Hayes said. “This proves that a small hospital and community, working together, can make a huge difference.”
The exemption, which could save EPHC as much as $1.3 million per year, will also save dozens of rural hospitals in the state millions of dollars. The impact of this exemption could literally be responsible for keeping small frontier hospitals like EPHC in business.
Hayes and EPHC Public Relations Coordinator Linda Satchwell were beaming last week when they got the news. They were quick to thank the community for its support, but Hayes and Satchwell deserve most of the credit for this monumental accomplishment — Satchwell for doing the research, and Hayes for making sure the facts made it into the right hands.
It was Satchwell’s research that uncovered inaccuracies in a Department of Health Care Services study. She kept digging and found that Plumas could be classified as a “frontier” county. The difference between the words “frontier” and “rural” might seem minor … but the distinction probably saved our hospital.
“The impressive thing about this exemption, and what makes us proud in Plumas County, is that Linda Satchwell submitted the specific request for exemption which outlined criteria that required the DHCS to grant the exemption to more than 25 hospitals,” said Supervisor Jon Kennedy. “This tenacious and well-thought-out effort not only saved our hospital from future cuts, but also saved hospitals in other counties.”
Kennedy himself fought hard for EPHC. He traveled to Sacramento several times to plead the hospital’s case to legislators. He also helped Hayes author an assembly bill.
Armed with Satchwell’s research, Hayes took the ball from there. He tirelessly knocked on doors in Sacramento and eventually caught the attention of John Mendoza, the acting chief of the Fee for Service Division of the Department of Health Care Services. Mendoza helped pave the way for the exemption, guiding Hayes through the formal request for exemption process. And it was Mendoza who delivered Hayes the good news last week.
The impact of the news was immediate for Plumas County. The hospital announced its Loyalton and Portola facilities will begin accepting skilled nursing residents again.
The victory for EPHC is some of the best news we’ve had in a long time. It was a gigantic accomplishment for everyone involved.
Satchwell said it was a tremendous community effort “from writing letters, making calls, appearing in our video, posting flyers, coming to meetings and offering to help in any way they could — it all added up.”
Hayes agreed. “We did this ourselves. And we should be very proud!”