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Local hospitals may face funding cuts without legislation

December 12, 2012
By SAMANTHA MCDONNELL ( , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

Four local hospitals could lose over $1 million next year in funding if legislation supported by Sen. Charles Schumer is not passed. Schumer is urging the Senate Finance Committee to pass the Rural Hospital Act of 2012, which will extend funding by one year.

The Low Volume Hospital Program provides $1,027,200 to Brooks Memorial Hospital, TLC Health Network, Westfield Memorial Hospital and Bertrand Chaffee in Springville. This program, which helps 24 hospitals, including the four local hospitals, across New York state expired Sept. 30.

If the funding is not renewed, Brooks Memorial Hospital will lose an estimated $534,500, TLC Health Network an estimated $165,500, Westfield Memorial Hospital an estimated $67,500 and Bertrand Chaffee an estimated $259,600.

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Westfield Memorial Hospital is one of four local hospitals which could lose over $1 million next year in funding if legislation supported by Sen. Charles Schumer is not passed.

Jonathan I. Lawrence, MHA, FACHE, president & CEO of Lake Erie Regional Health System, supports Schumer's effort to restore $700,000 in funding to Brooks Memorial Hospital, the TLC Health Network.

"The failure to adopt legislation to reverse these cuts will necessarily result in the loss of vital jobs and valued health services in our communities. Such deep cuts undermine the merit of any right-minded efforts to reform our health system and serve only to further weaken our local hospitals and the quality of life during this prolonged period of continuing economic hardship," Lawrence said. "New York state community hospitals are already among the poorest in the nation. ... These smaller facilities face certain extinction if they are continually required to provide millions of dollars of services below the cost of operation."

Payments from the LVHP are essential to rural hospitals who may not necessarily serve a high volume of patients but are crucial to their respective communities. To be classified as a low volume hospital, a hospital must have fewer than 1,600 Medicare discharges a year and be 15 miles from any comparable hospital.

"The continued existence of the Low Volume Hospital and similar programs are critical to the financial stability of hospitals in Western New York, and will help enhance quality of life in our rural communities. We cannot let this program end and risk the loss of quality care and health care jobs, and I will fight tooth and nail to make New York's rural hospitals whole through the restoration of this funding," Schumer said in a press release.

Westfield Memorial Hospital officials said the cuts would hurt them as well.

"We have been in contact with Senator Schumer's office and we are hopeful that this proposed legislation will pass and that funding will be restored and retroactive to October 1st," said hospital director Kandy Susi. "This legislation was designed specifically for hospitals like Westfield which have overall low patient volumes, but are vital to the community and residents they serve. As a rural hospital, we know that WMH is vital to the Westfield community and the patients we serve. We operate efficiently and provide high quality health care in this community. A loss of $67,000 at WMH is significant and it will be difficult to make cut backs and/or find other revenue sources. We remain hopeful that Senator Schumer will be successful."

Schumer introduced the Rural Hospital Act with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R, Ia.) in May to extend these programs for an additional year with payments retroactive to Sept. 30. Schumer urged Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chair of the Senate Finance Committee and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), committee ranking member, to immediately consider his legislation on Friday. With the continued, funding, hospitals will be able to provide top care to communities while maintaining employment.

"Rural hospitals like Westfield Memorial Hospital, Brooks Memorial Hospital, the TLC Health Network, and Bertrand Chaffee are the lifeblood of rural economies throughout Western New York, and they deserve our support. Efficiently investing in our rural hospitals and their patients allows medical facilities in Western New York to continue providing high quality health services, and is pivotal for our community and our economy," Schumer said.

Along with LVHP, Schumer is urging the renewal of the Medicare Dependent Hospital program, which provides nine hospitals in New York with funding who treat a high number of Medicare patients, as part of the Rural Hospital Act.

"We applaud Senator Schumer's bipartisan approach and urge every citizen to join him and the 30 other democratic and republican senators who are seeking support of the Rural Hospital Access Act of 2012 by contacting Senator Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and Senator Orrin Hatch, Ranking Member to urge inclusion of this bill in the upcoming Medicare Physician Payment Legislation," Lawrence said.



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