PeaceHealth appeals state approval of hospice center

It argues that there are not enough patients to support two centers in county

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

Updated: May 15, 2012, 5:58 PM

 

PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center filed an appeal Tuesday challenging a state Department of Health decision to approve construction of a second hospice center in Clark County.

Community Home Health & Hospice of Longview was authorized on April 23 by the health department to build a 10-bed hospice center at 3100 N.E. 136th Circle in Salmon Creek.

PeaceHealth, owner of the county’s only existing inpatient hospice center, Ray Hickey Hospice House near downtown Vancouver, argued there aren’t enough patients who qualify for inpatient care to keep two hospice centers financially afloat.

“The Department of Health didn’t sufficiently vet what was in the application, and the information doesn’t represent a real need in the community (for a second hospice center),” said Marc Berg, PeaceHealth’s director of home care and hospice.

Specifically, the health department ignored Medicare claims and cost reports that showed few patients qualified for inpatient care, he said. Hospice has shifted toward in-home care, and some assisted living centers offer hospice as part of services.

The appeal presents a dilemma for Community Home Health & Hospice. The appeal isn’t expected to be heard by an administrative judge for several months, Berg said. Under law, CHHH may proceed with construction, scheduled to begin in the summer, but if PeaceHealth’s appeal prevails, CHHH is at risk of spending $2 million on a building it might not be allowed to use, according to Karen Nidermayer, Department of Health certificate of need analyst.

Greg Pang, Community Home Health & Hospice chief executive officer, said the nonprofit has not decided whether to move forward on construction in light of the appeal. The CHHH board is set to meet May 30 and will likely discuss the matter then, Pang said.

Nidermayer has said the CHHH project was held to the same standards and calculation methods as the other 11 hospice centers in the state, including two run by PeaceHealth.

PeaceHealth has argued that none of those projects were challenged, so the numbers included in the application were never called into question.

In this case, Berg said, there are Medicare patient numbers that cast doubt on how many Clark County patients would need or qualify for inpatient care through Medicare or private insurance. The Ray Hickey Hospice House is regularly under capacity, he said.

Pang said the health department’s opinion was “very conclusive and persuasive.” The opinion is available at http://www.doh.wa.gov/hsqa/FSL/certneed/Docs/Decisions/12-14eval.pdf.

CHHH already operates a hospice center in Longview and wants to provide office and bed space for its Clark County employees and patients, respectively.

PeaceHealth has advocated for CHHH using existing hospice beds at the Ray Hickey House, which are already open to them, instead of building a second facility. CHHH has maintained there are enough patients for both facilities, and demand will grow as baby boomers reach retirement age.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://twitter.com/Col_Trends;http://facebook.com/ColTrends;paris.achen@columbian.com.