Show off your holiday lights and you could win an iPad! Enter your photo by December 13. Winner will be selected by popular vote.
The hospital was denied in April by a state health commissioner who said there was no need for the unit.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
LewisGale Medical Center is still trying to open a neonatal intensive care unit, a process so lengthy that a child born at the Salem hospital when it began would now be turning 3.
In a petition filed in Salem Circuit Court, the hospital is appealing a decision by the state health commissioner, who determined in April that there was no public need for the unit. A previous commissioner reached a similar decision in 2011.
The application process began in June 2010, when LewisGale announced plans for an intensive care unit that could treat up to eight seriously ill or prematurely born infants.
Such a project would needlessly duplicate existing services in the region, including a 60-bed NICU at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, health commissioner Dr. Cynthia Romero recently determined.
“We continue to be disappointed in the commissioner’s decision and are committed to taking the appropriate steps that are in the best interest of our patients,” LewisGale spokeswomen Nancy May said Tuesday.
Under state law, LewisGale had to request a certificate of public need from the Virginia Department of Health. By having the state determine whether a need exists for certain facilities, the goal is to contain health care costs while ensuring that expensive medical projects will be financially viable.
In an appeal of Romero’s decision filed June 7, LewisGale argued that her reasoning was flawed, in part, because it treated hospitals in Southwest Virginia differently than those in the rest of the state.
Elsewhere in Virginia, the state has allowed separate NICU units offering different levels of care in the same region, attorneys argued in the filing.
In fact, LewisGale is the only provider to ever be denied permission to open a NICU, the 25-page petition stated.
A circuit court judge should reverse Romero’s ruling, LewisGale argued, because “a reasonable mind would necessarily come to a different conclusion on the issues of whether Carilion would suffer an adverse effect” from a second NICU in the market.
LewisGale has seen a 74 percent increase in the number of babies delivered at the hospital from 2009 to 2011, and that number is projected to continue to rise.
Having an NICU on site is important to the hospital, it says, because pregnant woman might choose to go elsewhere if there is no assurance of immediate specialized care.
But in her ruling, Romero noted that the NICU at Roanoke Memorial has just a 73 percent occupancy rate, and that the economic fate of a second such facility is “readily questionable.”
It was just the latest setback for LewisGale. After an earlier request was denied by a previous health commissioner, the hospital resubmitted its application with updated information.
LewisGale has proposed spending about $3.6 million to build the unit using existing space in its maternity ward. Carilion has opposed the plans, saying it has the capacity and resources to care for the region’s infants in need of intensive care.
That makes Carilion “the monopoly provider in the economic sense of the word,” attorneys for LewisGale countered.
“Economic monopolies are well known to have higher prices and poorer quality than competitive markets.”
Weather Journal7 wintry scenarios for Sunday