With the threat of Westchester hospitals being closed or consolidated, business leaders and medical providers announced their effort last week to combat the “potential tsunami” facing Westchester’s health care landscape.
A consortium formed by the Westchester County Association (WCA) unveiled an April 10 report called “Healthcare Insights” exposing the challenges facing the industry in the county. The study revealed that county residents could expect fewer hospitals and more consolidated facilities for treatment. Now, leaders in healthcare and related fields have joined forces to find a better way to care for patients.
“The health care industry is at an inflection point, that’s no news to anyone,” WCA Chairman Bill Harrington said. “The old model is broken and the new model is forming as we speak and we can anticipate radical changes in the future.”
Westchester’s 10 hospitals employ 30,000 workers, resulting in hefty contributions to the local economy each year, Harrington said.
But according to WESTMED CEO Simeon Schwartz, the current system is unsustainable. The study showed that if health care providers and businesses don’t adjust to developing trends, grim results will follow.
“The whole point here, is we don’t want to be a victim of what’s taking place in the health care system right now,” WCA President Bill Mooney said. “We want to take charge of our own destiny as a community.”
Among the problems outlined in the report is over the past 15 years there has been a 15 percent decrease in in-patient hospital bed use and a 30 percent drop in maternity services. Additionally, Medicare is now the biggest payer for in-patient services because of the aging population.
New federal government regulations like the Affordable Healthcare Act also add to the concerns.
White Plains Hospital CEO John Schandler said with new regulations being implemented on a constant basis, the industry can expect to face rising costs, shrinking reimbursement and budget cuts.
“We’re going to see more changes in the next three to five years than I’ve seen over the last 30 years,” Schandler said.
With those changes, regional hospitals could close sooner than later. One indication Mooney noted was the closing of St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City. When that hospital shut down, the effect felt throughout the healthcare industry could be comparable to the way Lehman Brothers hurt the rest of the financial industry, Mooney said.
While Mooney could not point to a certain hospital in potential danger, he said market forces, lack of equity, consumer demand and population would be deciding factors.
“This is by far the most complex issue I’ve ever dealt with,” Mooney added. “Nothing even comes close to it.”
One pleasant surprise the report noted was that over the past 15 years, fewer than 11 percent of Westchester residents travel to Manhattan for hospital care. Consortium officials thought that number would be higher.
The consortium, comprised of about 50 CEOs, the region’s health care executives and members of the academic and insurance sectors, will meet every six to eight weeks to recommend solutions. Its first report could be released in about a year, but the timeline is not concrete.
“There’s a sense of urgency and a sense of urgency could accelerate that or a lack of data could make it longer,” Mooney said.