FMH closes Blue Granite Center, home health and cardiac rehab

WINNSBORO − The tipping point for Blue Granite Medical Center and for Caring Neighbors, Fairfield Memorial Hospital’s home health business, may have occurred during the Finance and Audit Committee meeting Halloween night.

Agenda items that evening included profitability reports, Blue Granite Medical Center and Home Health, but FMH Board of Trustees Chair Catherine Fantry requested discussion of these items be moved into executive session since it would encompass “personnel and contractual matters.”

After another executive session during a special called meeting Nov. 7, announced to the public with only a notice on the front door of the hospital, the full Board voted to close Blue Granite Medical Center along with the FMH home health business and its cardiac rehab program.

According to information provided in response to questions from The Voice in September, on average 162 patients per month are seen at the Blue Granite Medical Center, and there is a case load of 48 patients in Caring Neighbors Home Health.

A week after the vote to close the three departments, The Voice was told that hospital CEO Suzanne Doscher was too busy to meet with The Voice staff to answer questions about the impact of closing these services until after the newspaper’s publication deadline. The Voice learned from reliable sources that Doscher planned to inform 11 or so hospital employees of their pending layoff on Tuesday.

In spite of the apparent haste of the special called meeting and vote, the writing has been on the wall for some time. Month by month, Blue Granite and the other hospital programs have shown declining gross patient revenues and were seen by some board members to be large contributors to the hospital’s overall negative position.

“If it wasn’t for Blue Granite and home health, we would not be under water with EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization),” Trustee Randy Bright said during the FMH September Finance and Audit Committee meeting. “If we would have taken the suggestion to close those at the beginning of the year, we would now have a positive EBITDA.”

The detailed service line reports reviewed each month by the Board show why.  For Blue Granite Medical Center, at the beginning of the prior fiscal year (Oct.1, 2016 – Sept. 30, 2017), the hospital had hoped for $286,908 in gross patient revenues (what the hospital bills for services, not what it actually collects), but it grossed only $164,303 or almost 75 percent less budgeted.  Even though expenses for the medical center were reduced, it still cost about $250,000 to operate the center.

Similarly, for its cardiac rehab program, the hospital grossed only $78,916 last year, 136 percent less than what it had expected. While FMH’s home health business took in $479,505 or 74 percent more than expected, the cost of providing home health services, $655,840, far exceeded what the hospital had budgeted. It still lost money on that service.

Chief Finance Officer Timothy Mitchell also noted during the September finance meeting that in the 2017-2018 fiscal year budget, home health and home care were projected to lose about $437,000.

In spite of this, hospital management had included Blue Granite and home health in the current 2018 budget, which runs from Oct. 1, 2017 through Sept. 30, 2018, and were optimistic about the future of Blue Granite, at least. During the hospital’s September budget meeting, Mitchell said that increases in patient volume and revenues at Blue Granite Medical Center were expected because the staffing had finally stabilized.

Unfortunately, that hope of stability lasted only one month. Doscher reported at the Oct. 24 meeting that the full-time nurse practitioner would be leaving Blue Granite and the center would be open only two days a week.

Throughout its budget deliberations and policy setting, FMH has proceeded as if all departments would remain open in the near future and that it would, at some unspecified time, begin looking at what services it will close and what it will keep. The hospital also hired an outreach coordinator his past summer whose job is to promote outpatient services to the community and gain more visibility – and patients – for the facility. In addition, the medical center and home health services have been characterized by Board members as services the hospital has to keep because of need in the community.

While FMH has developed an employee retention plan with bonuses and an overall strategic plan to guide the hospital for the current year, there has been no indication to date that the hospital has a transition plan in place for those programs it intends to shut down.

Hospital management and the Board of Trustees have been reluctant to publicly state what Fairfield Memorial will look like once the inpatient hospital fully shuts down and Providence Hospital builds a new stand-alone emergency room.  The closure of Blue Granite, home health services and cardiac rehab, leaves the other rehabilitation services (physical therapy and respiratory therapy), imaging services, and diabetic education as the core services around which a reconstructed FMH could be formed.

Comments

  1. What are we going to have to do now for Cardiac Rehab walk to columbia or get a Taxi.
    It is bad enough our hospital will be closing it,s doors soon . What will happen to the building will it be empty /torn down or turned into a nursing home. I like the way the employees park out front of the building to think the hospital is doing a lot of business . Why can,t someone just say when the last day we will have a hospital in our little town. Whats really going on in WINNSBORO SC

  2. Sryia Roach says

    It’s so sad that in our small town everything is closing. I’ve heard from outsiders that our town is cured due to everything still closes early on Wednesday and all the other practices they still doing from back in the day. It kind of makes you think this could be true. They only jobs seem to be here are cashier jobs and a few others jobs that employers pick and choose who to hire. Based off if they like that person or not. It seems in order to prosper you have to move out of Fairfield County.

  3. What about my hospital bill what will happen to that

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