An earlier version of this article included financial information. However, that information was pulled when Bon Secours officials indicated it was in error and the inaccuracies portrayed a false accounting of the hospital’s financial standing.
by Audrey Thomasson
KILMARNOCK—Two years after taking over Rappahannock General Hospital (RGH) and promising to expand services, Bon Secours is closing down two key areas—the intensive care unit (ICU) and surgeries after 3 p.m.
In a town hall meeting to introduce Bon Secours to the community in April 2015, Regional Medical Center chief executive officer Michael Robinson told residents, “It’s about providing for the needs of the community…We’re here to respond to, not dictate, the needs of the community.”
The first major change came a year later when the hospital was converted to a Critical Access Hospital, a designation which enables certain rural hospitals to be paid on a cost-basis for Medicare patients, rather than on a set-basis which is significantly lower. Congress created the designation in 1997 after a string of rural hospital closures in the 1980s and 1990s.
It was a lifeline to save the hospital by helping to make it financially viable. But as with most health care facilities, Bon Secours Rappahannock General Hospital has had to continue adjusting to the changing reality of today’s healthcare.
“Decisions are not made off of profits,” said John Michael Wallace, public relations manager for Bon Secours in Richmond. “They’re made off of patient volume. Patient volumes, critical care access and community health needs are factors in determining service offerings…and in making the changes.”
With medical advances and the pressure from insurance companies to keep costs down, patients are spending fewer days in the hospital. Additionally, more patients are traveling to larger hospitals which are better equipped to handle specialty and advanced services. In recent years, RGH has gone from an 86-bed hospital to a 25-bed hospital.
With last week’s announcement of the ICU closure and limited surgery schedule, Bon Secours believes they can better meet the needs of the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula communities, Bon Secours said in a prepared statement. The changes are expected within 30 days.
“No jobs will be lost; however, there may be internal staffing transfers within Rappahannock General Hospital,” said Wallace. For emergency surgeries after 3 p.m., Wallace said, “Patients will be treated while they await transfer to facilities where they will receive specialized care.”
He noted in-patient services will be a “blended model of hospitalist physicians and nurse practitioners,” which means the hospital’s doctors will handle in-patient care rather than having personal physicians making patient rounds. It is a practice that has been eased into service over the past couple of years.
The hospital will continue to offer emergency room services, orthopedics, cardiology, imaging services, surgical procedures, a full-time outpatient infusion (oncology) center, physical therapy, behavioral health services, sleep lab and on-site neurology.
“Rappahannock General Hospital holds the Joint Commission’s Certificate for Primary Stroke Center Certification, which recognizes the facility’s exceptional dedication to educating and training staff to improve outcomes for stroke patients,” said Wallace.
Also, the hospital has made significant investments in neurology, imaging services and is continuing to provide surgical services, he noted.