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Centra Health is committed to keeping Bedford Memorial Hospital open as a full-service hospital, according to E. W. Tibbs, Centra’s CEO.
Tibbs addressed Bedford Memorial Health Foundation members at their annual business meeting held at the Welcome Center Monday morning.
Centra and Carilion currently co-own the hospital but Tibbs said Centra began negotiating with Carilion last summer to buy out Carilion’s share. An agreement was reached and the sale takes effect on July 1.
From that point on, the hospital will have an 11 member board of directors. Nine of the members will come from the current board of directors and two will be Centra executives. Tibbs, who lives two-and-a-half miles from Bedford will be one of them. Tibbs is familiar with the hospital. He worked there as a nurse and was later the hospital’s chief executive officer.
Tibbs said the hospital’s current employees are being offered their current jobs at the same rate of pay and with similar benefits. Patti Jurkus will remain the hospital’s CEO.
He said Centra plans to work on staff development at Bedford Memorial over the next two years.
“We need to make sure primary care is accessible,” he said.
Tibbs said Dr. Darlene Nigro has joined Centra and another primary care doctor is scheduled to come on board on April 1. Village Family Physicians will grow to serve Bedford. Centra will also be working with independent practices and there are plans to bring in two new general surgeons.
“You have to have a basic general surgery practice to run a community hospital,” Tibbs said.
Tibbs promised a significant investment in Bedford and this will include a hospital records system that makes a patient’s records available to doctors in any part of the Centra system treating that patient. A person having a heart attack, who comes into Bedford Memorial’s emergency room and needs cardiac catheterization, will be taken straight to Centra’s Stroobants Heart Center in Lynchburg.
Labor and delivery will not return to Bedford Memorial. Tibbs said that a hospital needs to do 500 deliveries per year for that service to be economically viable. Bedford Memorial, at its peak, did 300.
Bedford Memorial currently has nurse-anesthetists, rather than anesthesiologists. Tibbs said Centra will do a manpower analysis of Bedford Memorial’s staff and bring in anesthesiologists. According to Tibbs, the only difference between a nurse-anesthetist and an anesthesiologist, other than the size of the bill they send, is that anesthesiologists are needed for more complicated cases.
Along with discussing Bedford Memorial, Tibbs also argued in favor of expanding Medicaid coverage in Virginia. He said this would mean $17 million for Centra. Tibbs said Centra is already taking care of the people who would be covered because it is a safety-net facility. If Medicaid is not expanded, Centra will continue to treat these patients, but will have to find the $17 million elsewhere.