Long Term Care at FCH – Why Now and What’s Next
As the CEO of Forks Community Hospital (FCH), I have the incredible privilege of serving my community and leading alongside a team of remarkably resilient people. Many of us at FCH are lifetime residents of the West End, while others have gifted us by choosing to come here to share their talents. I have had the wonderful experience of my own grandmother being cared for in our Long Term Care facility during her last years of life., Whether from here or elsewhere, we all have the same mission; to protect and advance our healthcare services and provide excellent care here in Forks and throughout the district.
This mission we have is not without challenges. As FCH is your community hospital, I thought it would be helpful for me to start a communication with you that helps to clear up questions, share important happenings at FCH, and to begin some CEO conversations about the future of healthcare for the West End.
The first message I want the community to understand is that the Long Term Care is not closing. The current residents will continue to receive the great care they are provided now, they will continue to experience the activities and outings, and the cost to the residents will not change.
I want to talk about the future of Long Term Care services at FCH. As you hopefully know, FCH launched the HealthierWestEnd.org website a few months ago as just one way to provide as much information as possible about major projects, important initiatives, and changes coming to FCH related to the mission I talked about earlier. I have heard from community members that there is still some confusion and from others who have said the website had great information and gave them a clear understanding.
The change that is a high priority is to correct FCH’s financial state by decreasing the substantial financial loss caused by LTC operations due to poor Medicaid reimbursement for services. Knowing that nearly $7 million in losses is unsustainable and that the losses put the entire organization at significant risk, the Board of Commissioners approved moving forward with plans to shift the Long Term Care beds to a different type of license known as “non-skilled swing bed.”
FCH can no longer use its other sources of revenue from operations to cover the financial loss as it had in the past due to the cost of operations for our LTC. By transitioning the beds under the Hospital’s Critical Access Hospital designation, the reimbursement does not change, but we are able to claim the overhead costs on our Medicare Cost Report.
I understood going into this process that it would start many conversations, which is a good thing. I hope that this message from me helps to put an end to the misinformation and misunderstandings around the transition of our Long Term Care beds to non-skilled swing beds. The Healthier West End website is full of technical information, financial figures, and other details. I hope you will take a few minutes to visit it for more answers and information, and to ask your remaining questions, there is an online form on the website just for that purpose.
The most critical pieces of information I am asking you to take away from this communication are:
• FCH is NOT closing its Long Term Care unit.
• To lessen the financial losses, FCH has applied to the Washington Department of Health to transition the Long Term Care beds to non-skilled swing beds, allowing FCH to use all beds allowed by Critical Access Hospital (CAH) participation rules.
• Ultimately, if approved to move forward, this transition will reduce the substantial financial losses because the cost of operations will be partly covered through the Medicare Cost Report, adding about $1.8 million to narrow the $2.3 million loss.
As I talked to other healthcare leaders from across the State of Washington and the United States, our situation here in Forks is not unique. Small, rural, and remote hospitals face the same challenges related to caring for our aging populations and those who need and deserve access to care close to their community and families.
This community knows that FCH’s Long Term Care has been and continues to be exceptional. Our staff is deeply committed to caring and many beloved community members have come to trust that FCH will be there for them too. We are working hard to make sure this happens. Just as time does not stand still, we can no longer wait and hope that somehow the financial picture will change without acting.
Transitioning the Long Term Care beds that have served so many mean they will continue to do the same under a different name. Will there be some changes? Yes, and, we are doing what you would expect of us to prepare for them. Are we doing everything we can to ensure patients, their families, and our staff are carefully considered at every step? My answer; they are the reason we are doing everything we can to protect FCH and Long Term Care.
Please feel free to reach out to me through either the hospital website forkshospital.org, the Healthier West End website HealthierWestEnd.org, or by phone at 360.327.8333.
Thank you and thanks for being part of our community!
Chief Executive Officer