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Lewis County General Hospital designated critical care facility

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LOWVILLE — Lewis County General Hospital on Monday announced it has received a critical access hospital designation, created to strengthen delivery of health care in rural areas. The designation is critical to the hospital’s future, as $3 million was included in the 2014 budget based on its expected receipt.

As of April 11, the county-owned facility was $11 million in debt to the county.

“This is a very integral part of our plans,” county Legislator Philip C. Hathway, R-Diana, said.

With the designation, the hospital became one of 16 such facilities in the state.

To earn the designation, a facility must be 35 miles or more from another hospital, or 15 miles or more in mountainous terrain or areas with secondary roads. Officials announced the decision to seek the designation in September 2012.

Benefits of the designation, according to a hospital news release, include cost-based Medicare reimbursement, potentially increasing revenues and focusing on community needs. The facilities can network with an acute-care hospital for support and expansion of services, flexible staffing and services and capital improvement costs.

The move limits the facility to 25 acute-care beds on its license, but “all other services would stay the same,” said Eric R. Burch, hospital CEO.

“Patients can expect a seamless transition, and it is our intent to remain the health care provider of choice for the communities we serve,” he said. “The critical access hospital status will help position us favorably for the future.”

Prior to the new designation, Lewis County General was paid for services to Medicare patients through a prospective payment system, based on predetermined compensation amounts correlated to patient diagnosis, rather than actual number of treatments, interventions or lengths of stay. Medicaid outpatient services, as well, will be reimbursed on a payment amount per episode basis, which boosts the payment rate for those services.

“Part of the reason that 25 beds continues to work for us is that medicine is changing and evolving,” Mr. Burch said. “Many procedures that once required a weeklong inpatient stay can now be done safely and effectively as outpatient procedures.”

Lewis County General will bill as a critical access hospital effective March 5, the date the state Department of Health determined the hospital met all of the criteria.

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