The best future use of the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center (MKSCHC) got an airing at the latest meeting of the Health and Hospitals Corporation Territorial Board.
Schneider Regional Medical Center (SRMC) Chief Executive Officer Bernard Wheatley aised the topic during his report to the board March 12. Wheatley said he and his acting chief financial officer have been speaking with financial consultants about ways to improve revenues.
Hospital executives are exploring the chance that MKSCHC can be converted into an acute care hospital. Doing so would allow the clinic to utilize the small number of hospital beds on the premises.
The possibility was also raised of using the beds to accommodate patients abandoned at hospitals on St. Thomas or St. Croix. Aldrea Wade, a member of the territorial board and former MKSCHC administrator, said the facility was supposed to be used as a swing bed facility.
An acute care hospital can exist in a rural area or somewhere where the nearest hospital is a least 35 miles, according to rules set by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services. Because St. John patients have to cross Pillsbury Sound in order to access care at Schneider Hospital, officials say the shorter distance may qualify them still.
“That facility could be enhanced in its utilization,” Wheatley said.
The possibilities for MKSCHC were shared with visiting financial consultants from Clifton Larson Allen.
If the clinic were to qualify for a change in status there would also be different compensation rates from the federal insurance programs, increasing revenue for SRMC.
If it were used as a swing bed facility MKSCHC would allow St. John patients ready for discharge from Schneider Hospital but still in need of medical care to be admitted for more time for recovery before going home.
Board member also raised the possibility that the St. John clinic’s beds could be used for boarder patients — left by friend and relatives who never returned to take them home — or to house the mentally ill.
The Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix does not currently have a mental health ward and has been sending its patients to Schneider Hospital for care.
Several days before the board met March 12, Wheatley spoke to a reporter in an interview in which he said if CMS were to grant a change in status it would not happen soon.