Medicare Rates May Cause Rutland Rehab Unit To Close

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Rutland Regional Medical Center will likely have to close its inpatient rehabilitation unit. 

With Medicare reimbursements declining, hospital officials said the service has become too costly to continue and patients can get the care elsewhere. 

Rutland Regional Medical Center is one of three acute care rehab facilities in the state, and is typically for people recovering from a stroke, a severe head injury, joint replacement surgery or other traumatic injury.   

The care provided in these types of units is labor intensive and costly. Rutland Regional Medical Center’s board of directors will have the final say on whether or not to close the unit in Rutland.  But doing so is expected to save $3.5 million – putting a big dent in the hospitals’ $9 million budget shortfall. 

Hospital spokeswoman Jill Jesso-White said, "The sad thing is we provide excellent care and excellent service through our inpatient rehab unit.  Really the driving force of this is the federal government’s very clear intent on driving care like the inpatient rehab unit out of hospitals – and they’re doing that through very severe declines in Medicare reimbursement."

Jesso-White said a state imposed revenue cap on the hospital was also pushing the need for cuts. Forty full- and part-time employees may be affected and Jesso-White said it was unclear how many would be able to find other positions at the hospital. 

Marilyn Trapeni is one of those employees.  A case manager, she said if Rutland closed the unit, patients would have to travel to Fanny Allen or Mount Ascutney for high level rehab care, which she said was an additional burden for families. 

And while Rutland area nursing homes provide sub-acute rehabilitation services – she said the level of care was not the same. "It’s not as intense," Trapeni said. "They don’t have a rehab doctor on staff. They don’t have the other medical doctors on staff. And they are not required by Medicare to have three hours of therapy a day. So they get significantly less therapy."

Rutland hospital will continue to provide outpatient rehabilitation services. But administrators are expected to recommend cutting inpatient care to the hospital’s board of directors at their upcoming meeting May 30.    





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