Forks Community Hospital update given

Forks Community Hospital had a year of change in 2010, and a year of growth.

Forks Community Hospital Chief Financial Officer John Sherrett addressed the  Forks Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Dec. 15 to provide an update.

Issues addressed included:

Taking over the newly-completed club house on Founders Way after resolving issues with Clallam County Housing Authority. The club house should be open in January, and the hospital is planning an open house, he said.

There have been change in the roster of physicians at the hosptial, he said. On July 1 Dr. Rick Dickson closed down his clinic and became an employee of the Bogachiel Clinic. Dr. Ken Romney left in October for a practice in Twin Falls, Idaho.

The hospital’s community garden is flourishing, he said, fulfilling the vision for the project of the late Linda Thomas.

Last summer FCH officials meet with Olympic Medical Center and Jefferson Health Center and signed a joint agreement to work together with a with large hospital system. Sherrett  said they met with seven systems mostly located in the Puget Sound area, and are now going over proposals.

“We will have three finalists by April,” he said, cautioning that, “we’re not selling the hospital.” He said benefits of the plan include more access to specialists in Forks, and the ability of sending patients to one hospital system. Emergency critical care cases would still be medivaced to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

He said hospital officials are still studying the effects of federal healthcare reform legislation, which, he said, is causing small rural hospitals to align themselves with bigger providers.

Federal stimulus funds are paying for an electronic medical records system known as a Health Information Exchange. This will allow patients to go into emergency room and have their records available immediately through an online database. The $250,000 cost of the system is being reimbursed with the funds.

Improved services include a mobile nuclear medicine system that allows a scanning procedure visiting two days a month, plus an upgraded CAT scanner, which provides more detailed pictures.

Sherrett said the hospital is concerned about the possible effects of state budget cutbacks, which could result in dramatic cuts in funding, for charity cases and long-term care help due to a reduction in reimbursements from the state.

This is a “storm that’s going to get worse,” he said.