Saturday, January 09, 2016

Southwest Virginia Hospitals Face Merger and Possible Closures

As noted in posts on this blog and some of my columns in VEER Magazine, Southwest Virginia is a bastion of far right Republicans.  One of the policies most resisted by these Neanderthals is the expansion of Medicaid to some 400,000 Virginians which would bring much needed financial relief to hospital systems burdened with treating the uninsured in order to keep the non-profit status.  Among the financially stressed hospitals are those in Southwest Virginia, many of which are principal employers in their respective regions.  Closure of such hospitals would deal a double blow to their local economies by job losses and less accessible medical care.   The failed policies of the Virginia GOP is about to bear bitter fruit as the two hospital systems that dominate far Southwest Virginia seek to merge and open the prospect of the closure or downgrade of local hospitals.  The Roanoke Times looks at what could be karma inflicting ironic justice on those who vote Republican due to the party's pandering to religious extremism and racism.  Here are article highlights:
In advance of merger filings, executives at far Southwest Virginia’s dominant hospital systems said they are “absolutely committed” to improving the health of people in the Appalachian communities they serve and to satisfying regulators by holding prices below the national average.
Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System are the predominant health care providers for people living in Virginia and Tennessee’s Appalachian communities. They plan later this month to file formal applications with both states to gain consent to merge their systems. While they pledged to keep their three flagship hospitals open, changes could come for 16 community hospitals.

Wellmont and Mountain States said they serve one of the unhealthiest populations in the United States, with a high concentration of Medicare, Medicaid and uninsured patients.

“The two health systems have expensive, unnecessary duplicative health care resources that are allocated inefficiently,” according to the report, which notes that a merger would bring efficiency and lower the cost. Together, they have $1.5 billion in debt they said arose from duplication of services.
While the health systems pledge to keep their three advanced-treatment hospitals open, the report said the community hospitals in operation at the date of the merger “will remain operational as clinical and health care institutions for at least five years. … The new health system may adjust scope of services or repurpose hospital facilities. No such commitment currently exists to keep rural institutions open.”

Any jobs lost through consolidation would be offset by those created through the investments and by developing new services, they said. Both companies are headquartered in Tennessee. The executives said the merger allows them to keep corporate jobs that would be lost if one or the other firm was acquired by an out-of-area health system.
The cynical side of me is laughing at the cretins that vote Republican to their own detriment.  If one votes based on religious and racial based hate, perhaps you should end up getting what you deserve after all.   I feel sorry for the non-extremists who will be harmed if hospital closures result.
 come for 16 community hospitals. hospitals.

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