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Southwest Medical Center Announces Closing of Medical Equipment Store

KSCB News - April 11, 2012 12:59 pm

Southwest Medical Center�??s administrator announced the decision to close the Southwest Home Medical Equipment Store, stating that �??upcoming changes in Medicare reimbursement will force the already financially struggling HME store to operate at a loss.�?� The decision came as a result of decreased reimbursement for the services and the hospital�??s increasing costs to provide them.

“In order to continue to provide quality health care to the people of this community, it is our responsibility to make sure that Southwest Medical Center remains financially strong through these economic times�?�, said Bill Ermann, SWMC�??s Interim CEO.

The HME store will close its doors on April 18. However, three other home medical equipment providers in the Liberal area: Lincare, First Care, and Med-Link have agreed to absorb and take care of all transferring patients. All patients currently renting equipment from the HME store will be contacted by both telephone and letter to explain and assist them with the transition. The Southwest Home Medical Equipment Store telephone number is (620) 629-6878 and will remain active for any patient questions or concerns.

A total of two full-time employees and one part-time employee currently operate the HME Store. Prior to the decision to discontinue operations, the two full-time employees communicated they would be retiring in mid-April. News of the retirements prompted the decision to move forward and close the HME store at the same time.

�??We would not want to hire new employees knowing we may have to close the store in the near future�?�, Ermann said. �??The part-time employee will continue to work for SWMC and remain available to assist our HME customers with this transition.�?�

Hospitals across the country are struggling with higher uninsured patient volume, decreasing reimbursements, and decreased admissions according to an article in the March edition of Modern Healthcare. Many other hospitals are planning, or have already closed their HME stores. The hospital in Garden City took similar action in January of 2009.

Ermann reiterated that maintaining the hospital’s “strong financial position” was essential to the decision to close the HME store. SWMC is a nonprofit facility and does not receive tax support from the county.

�??All of our revenue is spent on the hospital’s operations, wages, and plant, property & equipment,�?� he explained. �??Future losses would reduce the hospital�??s ability to reinvest in new services, and we have a long list of other services the community would like to see SWMC provide in the future.�?�


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