Why we all need to be invested in making OB and the hospital a success
Plumas District Hospital in Quincy remains committed to providing obstetric services at a time when most rural hospitals are discontinuing the practice. In fact, Plumas District is the smallest hospital in California to offer OB. It’s a decision that the hospital’s leadership team has struggled with because it is expensive and impacts the facility’s bottom line.
Dr. Jeff Kepple, the CEO of Plumas District Hospital, addressed this issue in a memo: “Since I became CEO, I have been committed to not letting the OB service line go, despite the regulatory pressures, malpractice and liability issues, the financial losses, as well as the shortage of OB nurses. I believe closing this program would start a negative spiral downward for our hospital, as well as the vitality and economic development in our community.”
And we agree with him. If our communities are going to continue to grow and thrive, we need to be able to attract young families, and they need obstetric care. In the absence of our local hospital, mothers-to-be would have to travel a minimum of 90 minutes for care, even in the best of conditions. And there are times when the roads are not only dangerous thus making travel time longer, they are impassable. During last week’s board meeting, Kepple, who has delivered hundreds of babies at PDH, said he knows of many cases that would have resulted in dire consequences if a mom had needed to travel such a distance.
Plumas District Hospital delivers an average of 80 babies per year, and Kepple worries about what would happen to those families if the services were to be discontinued. So he, his management team and the hospital board, are committed to continuing the program and investing in its success. If we want to maintain viable communities that continue to attract young people and grow, we all must be invested in the hospital’s successful OB program, as well as the success of the entire hospital.
During his three years as CEO, Kepple has focused on meeting the health needs of this community by expanding services. He has hired family doctors, physician’s assistants, a surgeon, and expanded specialty offerings. He has increased salaries to attract and keep quality health care providers at a time when there are shortages across the state and the country. The changes have resulted in record usage and record revenues for the hospital and its clinics, but that doesn’t always translate into cash flow.
Part of the problem is the reimbursement rate from MediCal, which averages about 45 cents on the dollar. And while there are intergovernmental transfers designed to help bridge the gap, the upfront dollars required to access those funds is daunting. Caleb Johnson, the hospital’s chief financial officer, has done a commendable job of maximizing those opportunities and other hospitals are following his lead.
But MediCal is only part of the problem. Some people simply aren’t paying their bills. During last month’s board meeting, Kepple, Johnson and the directors discussed the manner in which bills are processed and followed up on. The hospital offers payment plans and other assistance for those who can’t pay a bill in its entirety.
At one time or another everyone in this community is going to need immediate access to health care and it’s imperative, that we do our part to support our hospital.