Changing requirements by Medicare and insurance companies are putting burdens on hospitals to prove the care they provide is high quality, North Hawaii Community Hospital Board Chairman Bob Momsen said Thursday evening.
“It is increasingly difficult for a small, independent hospital to satisfy all the requirements for management systems and IT systems and prove (to) government, HMSA, Medicare the quality of care is excellent,” Momsen said at a Waimea Community Association Town Meeting. “They want to pay more for hospitals that can prove that. On our own, we will fail to do that.”
The need to find a partner to bolster the hospital’s management abilities, information technology system and financial stability led officials there to enter a nonbinding agreement with The Queen’s Medical Center to consider a formal affiliation between the two.
North Hawaii Community Hospital has been in talks for the last two years with several large health care providers, including Hawaii Health Systems Corp. and Banner Health, Momsen said.
Queen’s, he said, turned out to be the best fit.
Entering the affiliation would give Queen’s the “unilateral authority” to appoint the North Hawaii hospital board, Momsen said. On Molokai, where Queen’s has a similar partnership with Molokai General Hospital, about half of the hospital board is made up of local residents. Queen’s officials make up the remainder of that board. Momsen said he would expect to see Queen’s add several of its managers to North Hawaii’s board as well.
Queen’s would also own the hospital, its assets and its liabilities, Momsen said.
“Their mission and our mission are virtually the same,” he said.
North Hawaii Community Hospital will end this year with improving finances, but its 350 employees still come to work each day with some concern the hospital won’t be able to make payroll, Momsen said. A partnership with the larger health system will also make recruiting doctors and other care providers easier, he added.
“There is no specialty we have too much of in our community,” he said. “We’ve had several very talented doctors we wanted to bring in and they looked at the financial stability of the hospital and said no. With Queen’s standing beside us, we’ll be able to recruit more doctors and improve the care given to the community.”
North Hawaii Community Hospital’s board is hoping to either enter a formal affiliation, or know one isn’t going to happen, by the end of this year. That’s also the hospital’s time frame in which to find a new, permanent chief executive officer.
Attendees wanted to know the partnership’s downside.
“The thing you have to understand is that Queen’s then is in charge,” Momsen said. “Depending on how well or poorly they listen to people in the community, people in the community could be upset. Theoretically we could go back to being independent. It would be very difficult to do.”
Momsen said the hospital planned several more community meetings on the proposal before finalizing anything.
“The concern that Queen’s has and the reason we can’t do the deal today, they don’t think they know yet what you want,” Momsen said. “Until they understand what the community desires and build their own relationship with the community, they aren’t going to do this. They specifically don’t want to get involved with a community whose needs they can’t meet.”