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St. Joe's gets $1.3 million more for CMS rural demonstration project

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St. Joe's gets $1.3 million more for CMS rural demonstration project
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

DICKINSON - Dickinson's St. Joseph's Hospital and Health Center is going to receive an additional $1.3 million in funding over two years through a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) rural demonstration project.

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Tuesday's announcement that St. Joe's can participate in the CMS Rural Community Hospital Program came as Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., and North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven met in Bismarck with CMS representatives, state officials and hospital and community leaders from Dickinson and Richardton.

The state congressional delegation and the governor's office have been working to help St. Joe's obtain Critical Access Hospital (CAH) status. This CAH designation provides increased reimbursement for services from Medicare which would mean about $1.5 million per year in additional revenue for the Dickinson facility.

Under current federal law, however, St. Joe's can't become a CAH because the Richardton Memorial Hospital & Health Center Inc. already has CAH status and is within 35 miles of Dickinson.

"We're excited and we are grateful to have been announced as one of the awardees who will participate in the rural hospital demonstration project," St. Joe's CEO Claudia Eisenmann said Tuesday afternoon. "That financial infusion, although it certainly does not make up the gap we have in our financial performance, goes a long way in helping."

St. Joe's continues to take steps to address $13.2 million in operational losses from fiscal 2002 to the end of the most recent fiscal year this past June 30.

"This is good news for Dickinson and the people of southwest North Dakota," Conrad said in a press release issued by his office Tuesday. "St. Joe's fills a critically important role in the community. This new funding from CMS will help St. Joe's get back on its feet."

St. Joe's being able to apply and qualify for the rural demonstration project is the direct result of a meeting Conrad convened last year with Kerry Weems, acting administrator of CMS. At that time, Weems agreed to reopen the program to new applications.

Pomeroy stated in the same press release, "St. Joseph's is an important institution for this community, and there's still much to be done."

Hoeven said Tuesday afternoon that getting the rural demonstration project is a good step from CMS.

"That will help in this transition process because you can't have both the rural pilot project and the critical access," he said.

Hoeven said the other part of the discussion Tuesday was really facilitating an effort to get Catholic Health Initiatives of Denver, which owns St. Joe's, to work with the Richardton hospital on a mutual agreement.

"At this point it really means sitting down and evaluating what are the options for Richardton in terms of clinic and what can they convert to that would work for the Richardton community that would be viable for a long-term basis and enables St. Joe's to then have the critical access," he said.

Those attending Tuesday's meeting agreed to meet weekly for the next several months to facilitate a resolution. Overseeing the upcoming meetings is State Health Officer Dr. Terry Dwelle. Hoeven said the task force meetings while involve representatives from the congressional delegation, his office, state human services and health departments, CHI, Dickinson and Richardton.

"It will involve everybody," Hoeven said. "But primarily, it's about getting Catholic Health Initiatives and Richardton into some kind of relationship that will work for St. Joe's and Richardton."

Eisenmann thought Tuesday's meeting was truly encouraging because everyone was there for one purpose, "to begin the dialogue anew." Talks between St. Joe's and Richardton officials had recently broken off after an offer from CHI was rejected by Richardton. Eisenmann previously stated she would not discuss that offer due to proprietary concerns.

"We'll continue work with St. Joseph's and others through this task force to find a way to put the hospital back on solid footing," Pomeroy said in Tuesday's press release.

Eisenmann said the commitment to meet on a weekly basis for the foreseeable future to continue the dialogue in a material way is evidence as to how serious everyone is to reach a solution.

"The purpose of the meetings is to continue to define options that will work for St. Joe's and work for Richardton to get both of our communities where we need to be in terms of being able to provide some health care serves on total to Stark County," she said.

Hoeven summarized the day's events by saying, "Everybody agreed to work together to come up with a solution. That's what we have to do."

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