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CMH narrows affiliate choices to 3

South Boston News
Scott Burnette / October 09, 2013
Community Memorial Healthcenter (CMH) has narrowed the field of potential suitors to three as it seeks to affiliate with a larger health care organization, said CEO Scott Burnette Tuesday in his annual update on the state of the South Hill hospital.

The three contenders are Bon Secours Health Systems, Duke Lifepoint Healthcare and Virginia Commonwealth University Health System (VCU).

For the past year and a half, a steering committee led by John Lee, CEO of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative and Denny Hardee, retired former owner of Hardee Ford, have explored possible affiliations for the 284-bed hospital.

CMH already has forged a relationship with VCU, one of the three contenders, under a joint venture agreement to provide medical oncology and radiation oncology care in South Hill. VCU’s main hospital is in Richmond.

Bon Secours, another contender, currently operates four facilities in the Richmond area: St. Mary’s Hospital, Richmond Community Memorial Hospital, Memorial Regional Medical Center in Hanover County, and St. Francis Medical Center.

The third contender, Duke Lifepoint operates two local facilities: Maria Parham Hospital in Henderson, N.C. and Person Memorial Hospital in Roxboro, N.C. It also operates Danville Regional Medical Center and Twin County Regional Healthcare in Galax.

“We are currently in the due diligence phase” of the search for an affiliate, explained Burnette Tuesday, He hopes the search committee would be ready with a recommendation by November.

“By then we hope to know what we will do, with whom, and what model we will follow,” said Burnette. Whatever the decision, Burnette promised that the affiliation would enhance healthcare in the region.

CMH’s search for an affiliate provider comes on the heels of Halifax Regional Health System’s decision earlier this year to merge with Nolfolk-based Sentara Healthcare, in a transaction valued at $115 million.

One of the driving factors behind the move to affiliate is the rising cost of medical care and the decline in reimbursements through Medicare and Medicaid. During the initial rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) CMH lost nearly $1.7 million in Medicare reimbursements, and the federal budget sequester took another two percent in Medicare payments, Burnette said. For a hospital like CMH, where 80 percent of its services are paid for with Medicare or Medicaid dollars, it is nearly impossible to overcome that loss.

Still, thanks to investments, Burnette said the hospital ended the 2013 fiscal year with $1.6 million in profits. He also credited the hospital’s affiliation with Premier Healthcare Alliance, and their benchmarking/productivity system, with helping CMH continue to provide “high-quality, cost-effective healthcare.”

Premier, created by an alliance of approximately 2,900 U.S. community hospitals and 100,000 alternate sites, operates comprehensive databases of best practices and cost reduction strategies for its member hospitals.

CMH, like most hospitals, is seeing a reduction in its patient volume, Burnette said. Last year, they saw 20 percent fewer patients. Burnette called that a good news/bad news scenario. Fewer people are getting sick, but that also means less revenue for the hospital.

On a positive note, Burnette said CMH continued to receive high ratings for quality of care, patient satisfaction, and safety. CMH was rated by three different organizations, yet each one ranked the hospital in its highest categories for patient satisfaction and patient care.

The HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems), a hospital survey done by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gave its top rating – green – to CMH for achievement and improvement. And, according to Burnette, the hospital scored 40 percent higher than both the national and state averages in these categories.

Two other surveyors, Leapfrog, which is a survey done by fortune 500 corporations, and BlueCross BlueShield’s Q-HIP gave CMH top ratings. From Leapfrog, they received an “A” and from BlueCross BlueShield they received 109 percent (due to bonus points) where the top ranking is 100 percent. CMH was the only area hospital to receive an “A” from Leapfrog, a feat it accomplished two years in a row.

One shortcoming highlighted by the HCAHPS survey was the response of patients to whether the area around their room was quiet at night. Only 58 percent of those surveyed said the area around their room was “always quiet.” As a result, the hospital instituted a new “Hush” campaign for its doctors, nurses and staff, Burnette said.

Last, Burnette praised the success of the hospital’s ongoing capital campaign. To date, the campaign monies were used to construct the Solari Cancer Center that opened in July, and a new lab facility (due to be completed in November). Following completion of the lab, Burnette said CMH plans to erect a new CT room to house their new state-of-the-art CT scanner, and a new surgical suite.

As CMH continues to grow, it is adding new medical staff, including two new ER physicians, Ikenna S. Nzeogu, D.O, R.Ph. and later this year Graham Keats, M.D., and two new surgeons.

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