SPRINGFIELD — Two weeks after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Springfield Medical Care Systems executives told Springfield residents last night that, despite public uncertainties, the hospital and its care partners are not closing their doors and are still providing the same quality health care as before the filing.
“You can see that I’m being repetitive on this (point),” said Joshua Dufresne, acting CEO of Springfield Medical Care Systems. “Because I want you to take this message home.”
Dufresne and Michael Halstead, interim CEO of Springfield Hospital, met last night with more than 25 community members at the Nolin Murray Center in Springfield to answer questions about the bankruptcy process and what patients might expect going forward.
Dufresne said that the bankruptcy process could take between six to 12 months, though possibly longer. The organization does not foresee additional layoffs at this point, though some staff members have left the system this year due to uncertainty or retirement. Dufresne said the hospital recently added about four or five staff members to the medical team.
Because of cost reductions made earlier in the year, which included staff reductions, pay cuts and closing Springfield Hospital’s birthing center, administrators believe that the organization going forward is now bringing in revenue closer to its operating expenses, Halstead said.
Halstead said that filing for Chapter 11 was necessary not just to settle the organization’s past debt, but to help secure a needed hospital partner for the long-term future.
“In today’s health care, a standalone hospital, or one operating by itself trying to provide all the services, is not a good plan for success,” Halstead said.
Halstead said the organization sees Dartmouth-Hitchcock as an ideal partner for Springfield in the long term, as Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s network already includes one of the hospitals closest to Springfield: Mount Ascutney Hospital in Windsor.
However, in order for Dartmouth-Hitchcock to consider a partnership, the Springfield organization needed to address its $14 million debt accrued during the two previous years and demonstrate a plan to remain solvent.
“They didn’t have an appetite to acquire more debt,” Halstead said.
Halstead told community members that the two organizations have several meetings scheduled now during the next six to eight weeks.
Though the hospital’s restructuring to date has addressed much of the current operating deficit, Halstead said today’s changing health-care horizon requires all hospitals to look constantly at re-staffing.
The Affordable Care Act has moved the country down a path to keep the overall population healthier, Halstead said. Unfortunately, American health care providers still use a revenue model that’s based on people being sick. As the overall population becomes healthier, hospitals and care providers will receive less payment. This requires all care systems to continually look at different staffing solutions, which include partnering with other hospitals to cover patient services, rather than continue trying to provide them independently.
“We closed the Springfield birthing center, but by partnering with Brattleboro Hospital, our patients can still get prenatal services at our hospital,” Halstead said. “But they have to go to Brattleboro Hospital for their delivery."
Also, Springfield Hospital is considering outsourcing its anesthesia services. It is difficult today to fill positions for anesthesiologists, so outsourcing would be more feasible.
The nationwide demand for physicians forces hospitals like Springfield to rethink staffing.
“Physicians can make two to three times more money (if they) specialize,” Dufresne said.
The Springfield system may consider expanding the use of its walk-in clinics to treat patients for chronic issues as well as acute, non-emergency cases, Dufresne said. While not an ideal solution to some patients, it is preferable to going to the hospital emergency room for non-emergency issues.