New Children's may lose bed license Inpatient service may be halted due to deficits, low occupancy


November 04, 1998|By M. William Salganik | M. William Salganik,SUN STAFF

State regulators plan to move today toward eliminating inpatient beds at New Children's Hospital in Baltimore, which has been struggling with deficits, low occupancy and high costs.

The staff of the Health Services Cost Review Commission is expected to ask the commission today to launch a process to cancel the inpatient license for New Children's. Another regulatory board, the Health Resources Planning Commission, would have to concur. The planning panel meets next week.

The two commissions would then schedule a public hearing, probably for next month. After that, they could forward a recommendation to the state health secretary to pull the license. Even if inpatient beds were eliminated, the hospital could continue to offer outpatient treatment. It also could convert the beds to nursing home care, if state regulators approved.

New Children's isn't even sure it wants to keep its inpatient programs, said Agnes P. Nicholas, development and public relations director. She said the hospital is in the process of merging into the North Arundel Health System, and then hopes to have 60 to 90 days to develop a business plan for which services it will maintain.

Robert Murray, executive director of the cost review commission, said New Children's, licensed for 76 beds, had only 10 patients on an average day for the year that ended March 31. Those patients were staying an average of 9.1 days, up from 6.1 the year before, the highest rate of increase in the state.

"It seems as though they're generating extra patient days to keep occupancy up," Murray said.

He said costs at New Children's, adjusted for the type of case it handles, are 16.4 percent above the state average.

He said the hospital ran a deficit of $3.5 million for the fiscal year that ended in March and $3.4 million the previous year.

His commission is supposed to set rates for "effective and efficient" hospitals, he said, "and this institution does not appear to be effective or efficient." With Sinai Hospital only a few minutes away, the beds at New Children's are not needed, he said.

Nicholas said the merger would allow some services to be shared among New Children's, North Arundel Hospital and Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital, which is also part of the North Arundel system.

She said Murray is working from figures that are six months old, and occupancy is now about 15.

The growth in length-of-stay, she said, may be accounted for by a new pain program, in which patients stay for 30 days.

Children's opened 90 years ago to provide care for children with chronic diseases, such as polio.

As such diseases became less common, the hospital began treating adult orthopedic and rehabilitation patients.

It changed its name to New Children's to reflect its changed services.

Pub Date: 11/04/98

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