Lawrence Memorial Hospital hopes to have the newly remodeled fourth floor in working order by the end of the year.
Contractors will begin ripping out walls on the fourth floor of Lawrence Memorial Hospital next week as the hospital rushes to open a new inpatient rehabilitation center by Dec. 31.
The fast-track remodeling was approved Wednesday by hospital board members anxious to beef up Medicare reimbursements.
But only if the center opens by Jan. 1 -- the start of the hospital's fiscal year -- will LMH be eligible to collect the added Medicare funding in 2000. That's because Medicare guidelines don't allow hospitals to receive the new designation in the middle of a fiscal year, LMH administrators said.
LMH trustees on Wednesday approved a four-year contract allowing RehabCare Group of St. Louis to manage the center. The unanimous vote -- board member Lindy Eakin wasn't at the meeting at the time of the vote -- gives Universal Construction, Kansas City, Kan., the green light on renovation of patient rooms on the hospital's fourth floor.
The 10-room facility will have eight handicapped-accessible bathrooms, and construction crews also will build a dining area and two bathing areas.
The rehabilitation unit will cater to patients who need hospitalization, with an emphasis on physical, speech or occupational therapies. This would include stroke patients, people with head injuries, or patients with new knee or hip joints, many of whom now receive the care outside of Lawrence. Patients would use equipment at the Kreider Rehabilitation Center at LMH.
Some patients at the hospital's Skilled Nursing Facility -- similar to a nursing home within the hospital -- will also be better served through the rehabilitation center, LMH Chief Operating Officer Bonnie Peterson said.
Medicare regulations outlined by the Health Care Financing Administration don't allow LMH to receive Medicare payments for the rehabilitative treatment received by Skilled Nursing Facility patients. That is one reason the facility posted a $900,000 loss last year, Peterson said, and Wednesday's decision to pursue a rehabilitation unit could erase some of that deficit.
If the construction is done by Dec. 23, a Kansas Department of Health and Environment inspector can approve the facility and send recommendations to the Health Care Financing Administration, which has final approval.
"In terms of customer focus, it's designing and creating facilities that will meet our customers' needs," said LMH President and Chief Executive Officer Gene Meyer.
The hospital can take over the reins of the unit after four years, and there are escape clauses allowing LMH to bail from the agreement if it isn't profitable. Startup costs for construction should be about $150,000, Meyer said, $100,000 of which will be paid by RehabCare Group.
The company oversees 120 inpatient rehabilitation centers at hospitals across the United States, said Gerry Scrivener, senior vice president of development of RehabCare Group. The company will hire a medical director and program director and other staff members, but the hospital will provide the nurses.
"All of our programs are hospital-based. The reason for that is that we feel there are enough hospital beds that are vacant; why start up a competing business when hospitals can be our partners?" Scrivener said.
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