Four local hospitals, including three in Chautauqua County, could lose more than $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 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 and Westfield Memorial Hospital an estimated $67,500.
Westfield Memorial will lose an estimated $67,500 if the Rural Hospital Act of 2012 is not extended.
Jonathan I. Lawrence, president and CEO of Lake Erie Regional Health System, supports Schumer's effort to restore $700,000 in funding to Brooks Memorial Hospital and 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.
We have been in contact with Sen. Schumer's office and we are hopeful that this proposed legislation will pass and that funding will be restored and retroactive to Oct. 1," said Kandy Susi, Westfield Memorial Hospital director. "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.