Health system plans to drop hospital beds Conversion: The Bon Secours network aims to eliminate the acute inpatient beds at one of the two hospitals it owns in West Baltimore.

September 05, 1998|By M. William Salganik | M. William Salganik,SUN STAFF nTC

The hospital without beds, some say, is a natural evolution.

Bon Secours Baltimore Health System is planning to eliminate the acute inpatient beds at one of the two hospitals it owns in West Baltimore -- Bon Secours Hospital or Liberty Medical Center. The move would likely be made by the end of next year.

Both institutions would continue to operate emergency rooms and offer outpatient care, and the system plans new or expanded services, especially at Liberty.

The change was needed to keep both hospitals financially viable and able to offer services that meet the changing needs of the community, said Jacquelyn Gaines, vice president of the Bon Secours Baltimore system.

Nancy Fiedler, senior vice president of the Maryland Hospital Association, said converting a hospital to an outpatient center, a nursing home or other health use "is probably one of the best ways to deal with excess capacity."

Such a shift of resources, Fiedler said, "allows the community to keep health care services," and it gives hospital systems the flexibility to deal with changing needs and market demands. Bedless hospitals are a growing trend nationally, particularly in rural areas, she said.

During the past few years, more patients are receiving outpatient care rather than being admitted to hospitals. When they are admitted, their stays are shorter.

The result is a surplus of beds.

Together, Liberty and Bon Secours are licensed for nearly 500 beds but have fewer than 200 patients between them on a typical day. That's slightly lower average occupancy than at other Maryland hospitals.

James R. Stanton, executive director of the Health Resources Planning Commission, the state regulators who would have to approve the change, said, "There is a presumption, given the excess capacity, in favor of voluntary efforts to reconfigure."

Since approximately the late 1980s, Stanton said, the commission has approved elimination of acute beds at four Maryland hospitals -- Frostburg Community; Leland Memorial in Riverdale; and, in Baltimore, North Charles General and the former U.S. Public Health Service Hospital at Wyman Park. All became nursing homes or outpatient centers and medical offices, he said.

"In each of those instances, there was, at the former hospital site, some type of health care service that responded to community needs better than the previous use," Stanton said.

But the process does not always go smoothly.

Last year, Western Maryland Health System, which operates the two hospitals in Cumberland, considered eliminating the acute beds at Cumberland Memorial and consolidating services at Sacred Heart Hospital.

After strong community opposition, the plan was dropped.

The hospitals have since consolidated pediatric care and are working to combine obstetrics services at Cumberland Memorial, said Kathy Rogers, a spokeswoman for the system.

Pub Date: 9/05/98

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