With two months of operation in the rearview mirror, Pioneer Community Hospital of Scott administrator Tony Taylor is at ease inside his office as he talks about the strides the facility has made since opening its doors Dec. 2. But he also speaks confidently about the expected progress that lies ahead for the fledgling hospital.
February began with news that PCH has received its CCN number — formerly known as a provider number — for Medicaid and Medicare, perhaps the most eagerly awaited development from a standpoint of the hospital’s financials. And the hospital formally announces this week the acquisition of one family practice medical clinic and the establishment of another.
“We were busy off the get-go,” Taylor said of the hospital’s ER traffic after opening its doors on Dec. 2. A community that had gone without emergency health care services for 19 months had grown accustomed to a trip out-of-town even for something as simple as a sprained ankle. Once PCH opened its doors on Dec. 2, patients began to flock back. Taylor tells stories of two babies that have been born in the ER — quite unexpectedly, obviously — and of an expectant mother suffering from placenta previa, an extremely life-threatening condition. Both the mother and her baby would have been lost, Taylor fears, if the ER had not opened just weeks earlier. But they were stabilized in the ER and transported to UT Medical Center in Knoxville, and are said to be doing okay.
“Opening the ER was the correct thing to do,” Taylor said. In fact, Pioneer Health Services — the Magee, Miss.-based company that owns the hospital — originally planned to forge forward without an ER. Later, the firm reversed those plans and announced that the ER would open as the first step of establishing the new hospital.
That opening did not come without a cost, however. While the hospital did not — could not — turn anyone away from the ER, the facility was more or less forced to eat the costs without a Medicaid/Medicare CCN in place.
“We’ve provided $1.6 million in services since Dec. 2,” Taylor said. “From Dec. 2 to Dec. 16, we’ll get no reimbursement from Medicaid or Medicare. From Dec. 16 on, we don’t know what we’ll get.”
But, he added, “Now that we have the CCN we know we’ll get some form of reimbursement from the straight Medicare patients.”
While revenue will still be slow to start coming in — “if we billed today, we probably wouldn’t see our first revenues coming in until June,” Taylor said — receiving the CCN means the hospital can expect even more traffic through its ER and more patients to take advantage of its other services. While Medicaid/Medicare patients were not turned away before, those who had deductibles had to pay a much higher price because PCH was considered “out of network” without the CCN.
“We advised each of those patients of the deductibles and some opted to go where it was cheaper,” Taylor said.
But with the CCN number in place, that’s no longer an issue.
To date, the hospital has averaged 34 patients a day through its ER and averages six patients who are admitted to the hospital at any given time. The facility has also averaged 1,000 radiology procedures per month. In addition to radiology procedures ordered by ER doctors and by attending physicians for those admitted at the hospital, local physicians can again refer patients to the hospital for simple testing procedures that for 19 months prior to Dec. 2 had required a drive to an out-of-town hospital.
With the Medicaid/Medicare CCN in place, the hospital can make its application for critical access status, the next important step for the facility. Taylor said the process is likely to take three months to complete. He eyes June 1 as a realistic date for its completion.
In the meantime, Oneida physician Dr. Bruce Coffey began making rounds at the hospital on Jan. 24. His son, Dr. Alex Coffey, began making rounds on Jan. 31.
Taylor said Coffey is only making rounds on his own patients; other physicians can make rounds on their own patients if they prefer to do so, or they can allow Coffey to do so.
Bruce Coffey’s practice, Coffey Family Medical Clinic, has been purchased by Pioneer. And the hospital is establishing a separate clinic for Alex Coffey at the former Omedco building at Oak Grove.
“We’ll be looking to put some clinics in some other spots and expand coverage into other areas as well,” Taylor said, adding that the hospital is looking to employ one or two more physicians.
With in-patient and out-patient geri psych services expected to begin within six months, the hospital is actively recruiting specialists for a number of practices. Dr. Albert Blacky has been contracted to provide cardiology services, while the hospital is currently in negotiations with another cardiology group as well. An eye surgeon will begin in March, and surgery, orthopedic medicine and podiatry will soon follow. The hospital is also working with the Gilberts — Drs. Scott and Allison, of South Fork Physical Therapy — to provide physical therapy for hospital patients.
It has been a whirlwind effort to get the hospital up and running for Taylor and his staff. And, to that end, Taylor says his staff is the biggest surprise he has encountered in Oneida — and a good one, at that.
“This staff is dedicated,” Taylor said. “That has been a good surprise. And the community has really backed us. I haven’t worked at a hospital in the 30 years that I’ve been in this career that has the commitment that this staff has.”
Taylor also credited Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals and other county officials for their help in getting the hospital up and running.
“The mayor was very instrumental in getting us open,” Taylor said. “He spent several hours on the phone and took trips to Nashville to get us to where we are. We cannot overlook his efforts.”