Behavioral Health Unit at CCMH to remain open, but will be downsized


December 14th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

(Updated 11:30-a.m. w/additional details and comments)

The Cass County Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees voted this (Wednesday) morning, to proceed with construction documents and bid letting to remodel the current Special Care Unit (SCU) to house a four-bed inpatient Behavioral Health Unit (BHU).  If the bids are within budget projections, remodeling would begin in late 2012 after the Special Care Unit relocates to the new hospital addition scheduled to open in August 2012.  The current BHU is located in an older part of the hospital scheduled for demolition during the final stage of the current construction and remodeling project. The motion to keep the facility open came from Board member John Molgaard, and was seconded by Leann Pellett.  He said he wanted to have a contract with the architects for the ICU to provide documents and bid letting to accommodate the BHU. The final drawings and bidding documents will have to be ready three-weeks prior to the bid-letting, on April 12th. The cost for the engineering changes and documents would not exceed $24,000. 

According to CCMH, the hospital’s Trustees have been examining the financial feasibility of maintaining an inpatient BHU, due to the poor reimbursement and consistent losses incurred for the service.  Losses include actual shortages in payment due to contractual adjustments with private insurances, and Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement below cost since BHU is not considered a core service for a Critical Access Hospital.  The cost of the remodeling the SCU will likely run about $300,000, the funds for which are available according to Molgaard.  He says there are always funds for expansion, that will not require additional taxes or monies from the public. 

If the costs of remodeling exceed that estimate however, plans for the BHU would have to be re-evaluated. The Cass County Board of Supervisors were on-hand for this morning’s meeting. After the Trustee’s decision was made, Supervisors Chair Duane McFadden said he was pleased the BHU is still alive, for now.  He says at least now it’ll have some direct costs associated with the plan, and the Board will remain steadfast in its support of keeping the BHU open. Prior to discussion and a vote on the matter, Hal Gronewold, spoke on behalf of the Cass Atlantic Development Corporation (CADCO). Gronewold said if the facility were to close, many jobs would be lost. If it were to remain open, the hospital could become a regional leader in Mental Health Care, since many other, similar facilities have closed or are planning to close. 

CCMH says with an average census of 3.5 patients per day, the propose four-bed unit is expected to meet most, if not all, of the inpatient needs.  By decreasing the size and overhead of the BHU, officials say the total effect on the CCMH bottom line is expected to be approximately $250,000 in losses per year.  CCMH Trustees President Steve Sisler said in a Press Release that “It is always difficult to balance our desire to provide a broad spectrum of healthcare for the people of southwest Iowa with the ever challenging financial realities we face.” He said “While we never like to plan for a loss, the board feels this is an important service for our community, and is willing to try to make it work on this smaller scale.”