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April 12, 2018

Calais Regional Hospital announces new cost-cutting measures

Calais Regional Hospital announced on its website Tuesday that it plans to suspend its "infusion services department" starting on May 1 as part of its ongoing effort to control costs.

The announcement comes almost a year after the hospital announced it would close its obstetrics department, citing heavy losses due citing heavy losses due to a decline in baby deliveries since 2007 — a move that sparked an outcry from local residents in September, which was followed by a letter in November from Calais City Council to Maine's congressional delegation requesting financial support for the regional hospital.

Typically, infusion services involve administering medication through a needle or catheter when a patient's condition is so severe that it cannot be treated effectively by oral medications.

In its online news release, Calais Regional Hospital's leadership said it remained "committed to working towards financial stability to ensure the hospital continues to be able to provide high-quality patient care. With a review of our Infusion Services Department, or Rose Room, it has become apparent the hospital is unable to currently sustain the program financially. Rose Room services will be suspended as of May 1."

The hospital reported that its Rose Room services had to be reduced last year "for some of the more expensive medication services."

"Infusion medications can be extremely expensive and range from a few hundred dollars to more than $14,000," the hospital stated. "Not to mention the overhead costs, supplies and staffing expenses. With extremely low cash on hand, there is no room to shuffle the costs around while waiting for reimbursement for services."

The hospital said over the last two quarters the Rose Room had been seeing an average of 1.4 patients per day.

"These patients are being notified of the upcoming change, as well as referring providers," the hospital stated. "Calais Regional Hospital staff will help patients facilitate transfer for alternate treatment options. The service will be reassessed this fall for reinstatement, dependent on the hospital's financial condition."

The Bangor Daily News reported today that the Maine State Nurses Association, representing unionized nurses in Maine, condemned the decision and called for the hospital board to "sever ties" with Quorum Health Resources, the Tennessee-based for-profit company that manages Calais Regional Hospital.

"This is just one more example of how the decisions being made by the top management of Calais Regional Hospital are hurting local people who seek care at this facility," the nurses' association statement read, quoting its president, Cokie Giles. "Why is Calais Regional Hospital spending so much money on their out-of-state management company when they can't pay their own bills at home? The health of their patients must come first."

BDN reported that Quorum also provides management services for two other Maine hospitals: Cary Medical Center in Caribou and Penobscot Valley Hospital in Lincoln.

In its online news release, Calais Regional Hospital's leadership outlined other steps that have been taken to lower operating costs — including decreasing temporary staff utilization, reducing management, adjusting and eliminating service lines, decreasing supply costs by maximizing group purchasing opportunities and improved billing and collection processes.

"But these measures are not enough to offset the continued decline in the community's use of our available services," the release stated. "Our staff work diligently every day to provide high quality service to our community, while also constantly looking for all opportunities small and large to improve the financial issues. However, this is not a battle our staff can win on their own. This is a community battle, if we intend to win it."

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