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RRH prioritizes core services in downturn

Ridgecrest Regional Hospital (RRH) – Ridgecrest Regional Hospital CEO Jim Suver shared for the community the strategy RRH board and administrators have embraced for surviving the ongoing financial crisis healthcare organizations are facing.

“This is the sixth month in a row that the majority of hospitals in the U.S. are operating at a loss,” said Suver.

“Our goal is to modify operations so that we don’t lose something we cannot afford to do without — core services like our Emergency Department, Intensive Care Unit, Urgent Care, medical surgery, obstetrics, laboratory and radiology.

“For the last decade, we have been able to add a lot of specialized services, like cancer care. That is wonderful — and we hope it is not gone forever. But the reality is that during a downturn you have to make tough decisions in order to protect your most critical offerings.”

One of many blows to RRH operations was the loss of the clinical partnership at the RRH Cancer Center. Letters went out last week to reassure patients that RRH staff will continue to work with individuals to ensure continuity of care, help them navigate services, and assist with transportation needs. But Suver noted that without a partnering clinic, the quality and safety of a local program is impossible to continue.

Outreach services, including support groups and wellness programs, have also been reduced in order to limit the impact of the ongoing fiscal crisis in healthcare. 

There are many current threats to healthcare providers — not the least of which are the increased COVID requirements, shortage of skilled laborers, supply disruptions and historic inflation.

“We have skyrocketing costs and reimbursements that are not keeping up with them,” said Suver. “In order to preserve as much local control as possible and the most critical level of services, RRH is continuing to review options for cuts that have the lowest impact to our patients and community.”

COVID has changed virtually every facet of healthcare, said Suver. “Rural hospitals like ours are in a disadvantaged position when it comes to competing for resources and specialized staff that are in short supply everyone.”

He added that even a single key loss creates a ripple effect that can magnify the impact. “One example was the shortage of oncologists. That had, in turn, had an effect on the support staff at the clinic as well as all the patients who benefited from that service.”

The promising news, he said, is that once healthcare and the economy recover, RRH may have an opportunity to rebuild its programs.

RRH continues to work with elected officials and other public agencies in order to explore partnerships that could extend services.

“We know that people are concerned, but we wanted to communicate the hard decisions we are facing so that our community has as much time as possible to adjust,” said Suver. 

“None of these decisions are made without careful consideration. There does not appear to be a path forward that does not carry with it some form of loss. But we are doing everything we can to mitigate those losses.”