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The New Huggins Hospital

THE CURRENT HOSPITAL main build at Huggins. (Courtesy photo) (click for larger version)
February 11, 2010
[Editor's Note: We have been publishing progress reports on the construction of the new building at Huggins Hospital in a weekly feature called "Huggins Happenings." In order to allow our readers to get a good idea of what the completed facility will look like and how it will be different from the hospital we have known for years, we asked Huggins Hospital to share its vision of the new facility and the factors that have shaped it.

The following is the first of three articles about the new Huggins that we will publish over the next few weeks.]


WOLFEBORO — In this series of articles, we at Huggins Hospital would like to share with our community information about Huggins Hospital, changes in health care and exciting aspects of your new hospital that will be opening in the Spring of 2010. We want to address some of your questions and provide insight to the challenges and opportunities all New Hampshire hospitals face, including Huggins, and how we are responding to this rapidly changing environment.

What is Huggins Hospital? Huggins Hospital is a non-profit, rural, community, acute care hospital with a Critical Access Hospital designation. This is quite a long description with a lot of information behind it. Here's what it all means for our community and for you and your loved ones.

A Non-Profit Hospital

As a non-profit, Huggins Hospital does not create a profit that benefits its shareholders, board members, employees or other stakeholders. It is in the business, however, of operating in a financially sound and prudent manner. Any operating margin is reinvested into the organization to further its mission. As a non-profit organization, the hospital relies on contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations, in addition to operating revenue, to provide essential health care services, advanced medical technology, new services and facilities to address the changing needs of our population and the changes in how health care is delivered.

Charity Care and the Current Economic Impact

Like every state in the nation, New Hampshire has suffered as a result of the economic collapse that has been gripping the country over the past year. All hospitals, including Huggins, have seen sharp increases in the number of people who need care but don't have insurance coverage or are having difficulty paying for their portion of their health care bills. The fact that individuals and families are losing private insurance coverage does not reduce the medical need for health care. In fact, Huggins Hospital provided health care services to the uninsured and under-insured last year in an amount of more than $3.4 million, which is a 33 percent increase over the previous year. We at Huggins Hospital are grateful to the generous individuals and organizations that have contributed to help support Charity Care to help those in need. For more information on our 2009 Community Benefits Survey, please visit our Web site at www.hugginshospital.org and click on "About Us."

A Time to Build

For many years at Huggins Hospital, the Board of Trustees placed a portion of the annual net operating margin into a reserve fund for future capital improvements. Approximately six years ago, the Board of Trustees decided that it was increasingly more expensive to maintain the hospital's existing aging facility and that it could no longer meet the needs of our patients and our staff. It was time to build a new hospital that would accommodate new technology, specialty services, current health care practice and the changing regulations for patient safety and privacy. We'll have more on the new facility, including floor plans, in the next article.

Huggins Hospital and the Community

Huggins Hospital is governed by a 27-member Board of Trustees from the community who serve in a volunteer capacity. We are a vibrant economic pillar in our community. As one of the largest employers in the region, we employ 525 employees who give of their time, talent and expertise to help our community with its health care needs. We also have more than 250 volunteers who donate their time and talents each year.

From lodging, to restaurants, printing and banking, Huggins Hospital generates millions of dollars in economic activity through direct income for hospital employees, meals and lodging and use of business services in our community.

Hospitals are an essential part of the fabric of communities all across New Hampshire. They provide critical health care services and serve as the hub for health care throughout the community, and are an important resource and contributor to the local economy. Huggins Hospital is proud to have served the Eastern Lakes Region for more than 100 years.

But the hospital we traditionally think of – a place with beds for inpatient care and an emergency room open 24/7 – has changed. In response to diverse community needs and to adapt to a changing, complex environment, Huggins and other New Hampshire hospitals provide a variety of services such as: primary and specialty physician care; outpatient ambulatory surgery programs; assisted living; transitional care; outpatient rehabilitation therapy centers; and much, much more.

The Role of a Rural Hospital

Huggins is a rural hospital with a smaller population than larger hospitals in urban, and even suburban, centers. As such, Huggins Hospital considers the demographics in the communities served and the health care needs of those communities. Many have asked why Huggins Hospital does not offer all of the services of a larger hospital. The answer is that this is not the role of a community hospital and rural hospitals such as ours. Rural hospitals simply do not have the population to support every medical and specialty service on a full time basis.

Huggins has, however, developed relationships with some of the top specialty physicians and hospitals throughout New England. We are pleased to offer specialty care in the services of cardiology, urology, neurology, oncology, ear, nose and throat and vascular surgery. Huggins is able to offer these specialties through relationships with The New England Heart Institute, Laconia Clinic Urology, the Concord Hospital Center for Urologic Care, the Frisbie Center for Cancer Care, ENT Physicians and Surgeons, PA, and The Surgical Group at CMC, which send specialty physicians to Huggins Hospital on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. For a schedule of the specialty physicians at Huggins Hospital, visit the Web site at www.hugginshospital.org and click on "Find a Physician."

A Critical Access Hospital

Another essential distinction is that Huggins Hospital is a critical access hospital. There are more than 5,000 hospitals in the U.S. and approximately 1,400 of them are designated as critical access hospitals. This designation was created by the federal government in 1995 to preserve vital emergency medical and safety net services in rural communities while providing incentives for rural hospitals to develop locally integrated health care delivery systems. To be eligible for the program, a rural hospital must provide 24-hour emergency care services, have an average length of patient stay of 96 hours (4 days) or less and have a maximum of 25 acute care beds and have network hospital agreements in place. Hospitals meet the requirements of a comprehensive federal survey before being accepted into the program. Once designated, the hospital can be reimbursed by Medicare for allowable costs. This has recently become even more significant as health care changes have affected federal and state budgets. critical access hospitals currently appear to be less impacted than those hospitals that are larger and reimbursed under the prospective payment system.

A Transitional Care Center

What sets Huggins Hospital apart from many critical access hospitals is that Huggins also offers a Transitional Care Center for patients who need skilled nursing and rehabilitative care on a longer stay basis. The Transitional Care Center of Wolfeboro (formerly known as "Sinclair B") is a 27-bed facility right on the hospital's campus that offers in-patient physical, occupational and speech therapy and skilled nursing care. The stay in the Transitional Care Center can be much longer than that for acute care. Medicare typically covers up to 100 days. The length of stay depends on the medical needs of the patient. One of the advantages to having the Transitional Care Center right at Huggins Hospital is that patients can be easily admitted from the hospital, yet have quick access to all of the hospital services and physicians during their stay. If you're wondering how patients feel about the Transitional Care Center of Wolfeboro, stop by to see the Center's bulletin board filled with thank you notes for the quality of rehabilitative services and for the care and compassion each patient has received from the staff throughout their stay.

An Acute Care Facility

Huggins Hospital is also an acute care facility. This means that, in some cases, patients needing specialty care not offered by Huggins Hospital will be evaluated and stabilized, as needed, in the Emergency Department and then transported, either by ambulance or helicopter, to regional facilities such as Catholic Medical Center's New England Heart Institute or Maine Medical Center or Dartmouth Hitchcock's Children's Hospital, just to name a few. We are fortunate to have relationships with many health care institutions throughout New England. When these patients are ready to return home, Huggins is here with the finest cardio pulmonary, physical, occupational and speech therapies.

In the next article, we will discuss the new hospital. What will change at Huggins Hospital and what will remain the same? Remember Groundbreaking in July of 2008? We are just months away from welcoming our first patients. It's an exciting time for health care in our community.

Martin Lord Osman
Martin Lord & Osman
Varney Smith
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