In 1984 a Medicare Only Program called the Swing Bed or Extended Care Program was organized at the Hospital. The Hospital was certified by Medicare to provide skilled nursing care in the Hospital. The Swing Bed Program and care is equivalent to a skilled nursing facility. This program allows Medicare patients to remain in the Hospital after recovering from the acute portion of their illness. Prior to this program, many patients had to leave the County if they needed skilled nursing home care. This program allows patients to recover to a point where they can return home or be admitted to an intermediate care facility. In 1994, this program was expanded from being a Medicare Only Program to also include private pay residents. Residents who were ready to be discharged from an Acute Care stay but did not qualify by Medicare’s standards to be admitted to the Extended Care Program. Patients could now enter the program on a private pay basis. Services are compatible to a nursing home stay, however, patients generally get more medical attention.
Just prior to the close of the decade a final project was completed, which was the construction of a Physician Office Building adjacent to the Hospital. The facility provides office space for two physicians and includes 6 examination rooms, separate waiting rooms, offices and nursing station facilities. Concluded in October 1989 it is currently occupied by Alec Hood, M.D., Robert Vergara, M.D., and Lois Bias, PA-C.
As the 1990’s came, the hospital was seeing a growing increase in the outpatient area and a slow but steady decline in the inpatient area. This change in service was due to several factors. The largest single factor that lead the move to outpatient treatment versus inpatient treatment was Medicare’s change in payment methods. Previous payment methods encouraged inpatient care while the new payment system encourages outpatient treatment over inpatient. Secondly, new technologies have allowed physicians the ability to diagnosis a patients condition without hospitalization. Thirdly, breakthroughs in medication have prevented the need for inpatient stays. The steady decline in inpatient care will continue as more and more medical breakthroughs occur.
With the decline in needed inpatient beds, in August 1992, the hospital established a physician clinic inside the hospital. The clinic occupies the original nurses station and uses previously used patient rooms as examination rooms. The hospital decreased its inpatient capacity from 49 available inpatient beds to 31. Dr. Asuncion Cope was recruited to provide physician services to the public by appointment or for walk-ins.
With the increased use of technology in healthcare, the Hamilton Memorial Hospital District installed a Computer Tomography (CT) Scanner in July 1993. A building addition was made to the hospital to house the Scanning unit. The C.T. Scanner provided local residents of Hamilton County with a modern technology which previously was found only in larger hospital, urban hospitals. The C.T. Scanner provided local physicians with cross-sectional images of the human body for better detection and treatment of diseases.
With changes in Medicare, Medicaid and insurance billing requirements, a more modern computer system was purchased in May 1993. The system selected allowed expandability for the future so that another computer conversion would be unnecessary over the next 10-15 years. Along with providing a current billing program, the system offered payroll, accounts payable, inventory, time & attendance, physician billing, accounting and medical records programs.