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Alton Memorial Hospital has filed paperwork to discontinue a 28-bed long-term care operation.

altonmemorialsquarelogoThe hospital, a subsidiary of the BJC Health System, filed papers with the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board to allow the exemption. The application Is filed on the behalf of BJC Health System d/b/a BJC HealthCare.

The primary reasons for the proposed discontinuation are low census and high quality alternatives in the market around Alton.

No other clinical services will be discontinued as a result of the Certificate of Exemption  sought through the application, the hospital said.

In the filing, dated, Dec. 27, Alton Memorial said the service had already been "suspended" with the last patient being discharged on or about Dec. 10.

A decision on the future use of the 28-bed nursing unit has yet to be made. Among the potential uses under consideration is the conversion of the unit to a medical/surgical unit, which, if selected, would be done consistent with IHFSRB and Illinois Department of Public Health requirements, the hospital said.

Medical records and other pertinent information relating to services provided to patients on the long-term care unit will be retained by Alton Memorial Hospital, consistent with its records retention and maintenance policies.

With the filing of the state application, the applicants attest that the required public notice had been published on Dec. 13-15, 2017, in The Telegraph newspaper.

During the period Jan. 1, 2013, through Dec. 31, 2016, the hospital's 28-bed long term care unit operated with an average daily census of 11.8 patients and an associated  occupancy rate of 42.3 percent. During 2016, the peak census on the unit was only 15 patients, the hospital said.

"An occupancy rate as low as that experienced in recent years creates staffing difficulties, and with the increasing utilization of outpatient post-operative therapy for orthopedic patients, utilization of the unit is anticipated to decrease further," the application states.

The hospital said there are numerous providers of long-term care services in the area, and the hospital's discharge planning department has not experienced significant difficulties with the placement of patients. "Paramount among the reasonable alternatives" is Eunice C. Smith Nursing Home, which is located adjacent to and controlled by Alton Memorial Hospital, the hospital said.

Eunice C. Smith Nursing Home will likely see a disproportionate share of the patients that have traditionally been admitted to the hospital's long-term care unit, the hospital said.

 The proposed discontinuation of inpatient long-term care services at Alton Memorial Hospital will have no substantial impact on the ability of residents of the hospital's service area to access care.

Currently, the skilled care (22+) occupancy rate in Madison County is only 68 percent. And, there are 19 providers of inpatient long term care located within 45 minutes travel time of Alton Memorial Hospital, three of which are located in Alton, the application states.

"Therefore, the proposed discontinuation will not have a material impact of area residents' ability to access skilled care services," the application states.

Letters, consistent with the requirements of Section 1110.130.c were sent to each of those hospitals on Nov. 17, 2017, the hospital said.

The exemption application was declared complete on Jan. 5, 2018. Written requests for a public hearing must be received by the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board no later than Jan. 22, 2018. Requests for public hearings must be sent by letter to Courtney Avery, administrator at the board, care of Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, 525 W. Jefferson St., Second Floor, Springfield, IL 62761.

-- The Illinois Business Journal