Plumas District Hospital is embarking on a new venture with a Mayo Clinic-affiliated program that will offer local residents more care options and provide revenue to the local health care facility.
Representatives from Allevant were in Quincy on July 6 to officially launch the new program and relationship with the hospital.
Jeff Kepple, CEO of Plumas District Hospital, said, “This program is specifically designed to take swing bed programs at critical access hospitals to a higher level.”
In a letter sent to his staff and board members, Kepple explained, “The concept began with the growing dilemma of overflowing tertiary care hospitals struggling to move patients out fast enough to allow admittance of more acutely ill patients. In contrast, critical access hospitals have empty beds with an average daily census of 4.5 patients nationwide.”
Dr. Mark Lindsay, who developed Allevant, is a pulmonologist and a rehabilitation director, as well as a quality review specialist. He presented the program to local hospital leadership during the July meeting and his staff will be working with PDH throughout the implementation.
“Dr. Lindsay had the foresight and familiarity with critical access hospitals to see the opportunity for small rural hospitals to perform this much needed rehabilitation service,” Kepple said.
The program began in Minnesota, at hospitals in close proximity to the Mayo Clinic, and has since expanded to Wisconsin. PDH will be the first hospital in California to implement the program, which will be called Plumas Transitional Care.
Kepple said the hospital will take it slow to ensure that it’s done right. Once fully launched, it will provide local residents with an opportunity for patients and their families to receive this type of care locally.
“Dr. Lindsay thinks we’re ready now,” Kepple said, because of the team approach that is already in place.
Having a team assembled to oversee patient care is seen as critical to the success of the program.
“We need to be diversified and this is a predictable source of income,” Kepple said during an interview last week.
The hospital implemented “swing beds” last year, which has already proven to boost the bottom line.
While swing beds also provide a place for patients to recover from acute care, the new transitional care program takes it to another level. Examples of patients that would require this sort of care are those recovering from pneumonia, sepsis, wound complications, hip surgeries, congestive heart failure and mild strokes. A typical length of stay would be 10 days to two weeks.
Such stays, which Kepple described as being “reimbursed reasonably well by Medicare,” would help the hospital boost its revenue.
“We’ve really built up our infrastructure, but now we’ve plateaued after years of increases,” he said.
In addition to envisioning increased revenues from this program, Kepple said it’s also going to be important to address expenses. After years of holding relatively steady, expenses have increased recently — partially attributable to contract labor, as well as pay increases for the regular employees.
The hospital has already taken steps to reduce the amount of contract labor that is needed — typically nurses and laboratory specialists — but it has taken time.
Kepple said that while the new program is good for the financial health of the hospital, it is important for patient health as well.
“Studies have shown that critical access hospitals actually demonstrate better clinical outcomes than their urban counterparts,” he said.
At PDH, staff would have the time to devote to the patients and they would be closer to their families for emotional support.