Council: Eliminate excess hospital beds to save $116M

With a shrinking population and declining inpatient use, a new report shows hospitals in Rhode Island will likely face an excess of about 200 staffed beds in 2017, the Associated Press reported.

Those unfilled beds will cost between $4.9 million and $21.1 million, according to the report by the Health Care Planning and Accountability Advisory Council.

The council notes that eliminating excess beds from individual hospitals in a "piecemeal fashion" is not only inefficient but also would lead to smaller savings. Instead, removing all of the surplus beds by closing a single facility would save up to $116 million without compromising care delivery.

Adding to the costly mismatch of healthcare needs and bed capacity is the fact that the number of Rhode Island residents seeking care in Massachusetts and Connecticut is rising while out of state imports are falling, according to the report. The council cited the proximity of border hospitals and inaccessible specialty services, as well as perceived lower value or quality differences in Rhode Island as causing Rhode Island residents to travel to other New England states for care.

The Hospital Association of Rhode Island (HARI) cautioned against prematurely cutting beds, noting hospitals represent more than inpatient care services. "Hospital inpatient services are a part of the broader healthcare delivery system in our state, and we need to examine the entire healthcare delivery system in the state," HARI President Edward Quinlan told the AP.

Similar excess inpatient capacity can be seen in Maine, where most hospitals continue to experience low occupancy rates, raising the question of whether empty beds mean there are too many hospitals or patients are receiving better care.

As industry experts wonder if all of Maine's 36 acute care centers are necessary, hospital officials point to technology improvements, reimbursements changes and the outpatient trend as reasons that prevent patients from needing admission in the first place, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

For more:
- read the AP article
- check out the report (.pdf)