Laura Lambeth, CEO of Ashe Memorial Hospital (AMH) announced Wednesday that in response to continued loss of revenue, Mountain Hearts Center for Prevention and Wellness is undergoing a restructuring.
“We are moving the cardiopulmonary rehab and diabetic education into the physical therapy department at the hospital,” Lambeth said.
According to Lambeth, Mountain Hearts has been losing $460,000 a year for several years, and the “economic decision for the hospital” to restructure was made by the board of directors at its Jan. 17 meeting, and the hospital foundation voted to absorb the services into the hospital facility on Jan. 27.
“This county has one of the highest unemployment rates in the High Country, therefore we’re seeing the highest number of self-paid patients that we’ve seen in the history of the hospital,” Lambeth said of the economic strains the hospital has experienced.
In the month of December, 87 percent of patients who came through AMH’s emergency department were self-paid.
Clients who utilize the cardiopulmonary rehabilitation or diabetic education services at Mountain Hearts will now go to the AMH’s main campus for services, which will be provided by the same employees, with the exception of one flex-time position which was cut in the transition.
Joe Thore, Chief Operating Officer for AMH said Susan Mooneyhan, RN, who was director of the Mountain Hearts facility, will be the program director of the cardiac rehab and pulmonary services program at AMH.
Thore said the flex-time staff member whose position was eliminated in the transition has been offered hourly work within the hospital to compensate.
“This decision has nothing to do with the quality of work that our staff does,” Thore said. “We have great staff who do great work at Mountain Hearts, but it is more beneficial to the hospital to restructure the way we offer those services, and we’re doing every we can do to keep those services offered to the county.”
The hospital is in the process of moving equipment and making the necessary structural changes, and anticipates having the move complete by Feb. 17, according to Lambeth. Mountain Hearts patients are being notified of the change by staff and will receive a letter from the hospital in the next week.
As to the confidence level that the restructuring will allow AMH to continue offering the range of services, Thore said, “It really depends on the direction of healthcare. We’ll be constantly looking at all aspects of our business to ensure that we maintain a viable hospital for the community.”
But he called the move “step in the right direction” to salvage services instead of losing them.
A decision on the fate of the indoor pool at Mountain Hearts has not yet been made, according to Lambeth, who said the remainder of the Wellness Center, which has a full line of aerobic and weight training equipment, would remain open.
“We are evaluating the pool, which is very expensive to operate,” she said, adding that definitive decision would be made within the next two weeks.
Christina Day can be reached at 336-846-7164 or at Twitter @CDayWJ