Home » Wayne County Commission Discusses Fate of Wayne Medical Center

Wayne County Commission Discusses Fate of Wayne Medical Center

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The Wayne County Commission met on Tuesday, November 15 in a very important special session – a session to discuss the future of Wayne Medical Center.

Chairman Pro Tem of the commission, Ricky Kelley, called the meeting to order in the absence of County Executive Jim Mangubat. All members of the commission were present: Herbert Brewer, Logan Shull, Tom Mathis, Stephen Pevahouse, Colby McDonald, Tyler McDonald, Kathryn Staggs, David Martin, Stan Hanback, Jeremy Heard, Sherrie Powers, Vickie Petty, and Alvin Creecy. Also in attendance were County Clerk Stan Horton and County Attorney Andy Yarbrough.

Many doctors, nurses, and other personnel that work at Wayne Medical Center (for Maury Regional) were in the audience, along with various city officials from Waynesboro, Collinwood, and Clifton. The meeting quickly became standing room only as concerned citizens packed the meeting room.

Maury Regional officials and employees of Wold, the engineering firm that would design a new facility if one were to be built, spoke to the audience about the issue at hand. Wayne Medical Center is a hospital facility that was constructed in Waynesboro almost 60 years ago. The building was renovated in 2001 when a new Emergency Department was added, but no other major renovations have taken place.

Maury Regional began by addressing the deficiencies of the building, stating that it is in very poor condition on both the inside and outside. There are not only cosmetic problems, but lots of mechanical and other problems as well. Maury Regional’s Tyler Taylor continued by detailing the money that Maury Regional has lost since taking over the hospital, and said that the losses are simply too damaging and cannot be mitigated at the existing facility without major improvements or a move to a new building.

Wayne County owns the building that houses Wayne Medical Center, and Maury Regional Healthcare leases the operations of the facility. Maury Regional is the employer of the 181 employees of Wayne Medical Center and the Maury Regional Health doctor’s offices in Waynesboro and Collinwood. Maury Regional also owns all the equipment and furniture inside the hospital. Maury Regional’s lease with the county ends in June 2024.

A major component of the money lost at Wayne Medical Center at Maury Regional’s expense is the reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid. Maury Regional officials say that the operating expenses of the hospital far exceed the amount they are reimbursed from insurance.

Two options were presented to the commission that would help Maury Regional make the decision to stay: 1.) completely renovate the existing Wayne Medical Center facility, including the addition of several thousand square feet to accommodate all the needs of the hospital, or 2.) construct a new facility, possibly at the county-owned land in the Industrial Park on Highway 13 South. Mr. Taylor explained the two different classifications that would determine the hospital’s capabilities and insurance reimbursement in both facilities.

If the existing facility were to be completely renovated, it would be changed from what is called a Pay per Service classification (PPS) to a Rural Emergency Health (REH) classification. In this scenario, the hospital would essentially just be an emergency room with no inpatient beds. All patients would be limited to a 24-hour stay in an observation bed.

The other option would be to build a new facility that would be at least 35 miles away from the nearest hospital, which the existing facility is not. If the facility meets the distance criteria, it could be classified as a Critical Access Hospital (CAH). If Wayne Medical Center were to become a CAH, they could not only continue the services they currently offer, but add more services as well. A new CAH facility would have between 16 and 25 inpatient beds, and the Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement rate would be 101% – a big improvement over the current 65%-70% reimbursement rate.

It should be noted that a newly built facility could also be classified as an REH, but would have the same restrictions as the old facility on inpatient beds and other services. Any hospital in this classification is basically just an emergency room and has no need for the number of employees that WMC has now.

The suggested site for a new hospital is at the Industrial Park on Highway 13 South. This site meets two important criteria: the land is already owned by the county, and the facility would meet the distance requirement of 35 miles from the nearest hospital.

Officials from Wold Engineering showed slides depicting the layout of a new building, and said that it could actually be smaller in square footage than the existing building but would be able to offer more services.

What seems to be the main topic regarding the hospital is money. The projected cost of a new facility is between $48 million and $54 million. This is no doubt a huge amount of money for a county that already has $18 million in debt. However, Maury Regional and Wold officials said that a complete renovation of the current facility would cost almost as much as a new facility.

The lease between the county and Maury Regional is looming ever closer in June 2024. Maury Regional Healthcare has verbally committed to continuing the lease if either a complete renovation is done or a new building is constructed; however, nothing is in writing at this point. One member of the audience expressed his feeling that Maury Regional is trying to strongarm the county into spending millions on a new facility that may not even be necessary. A nurse in the audience addressed the commission, stating that something must be done about the current condition of the facility, and that a new building would be the best solution to the problem. She also said that Wayne County is a poor county, and some people use the Emergency Department for their primary care because they can be seen in the ED and not have to pay up front.

Another member of the audience said that if Maury Regional does not continue their lease agreement, no one else would come in and take over the facility without asking for the same thing – renovation or a new building.

Mr. Taylor said that the proposed location of a new facility at the Industrial Park does not mean that other suitable locations would not be considered.

Other things were discussed, such as the distance from Clifton to a new facility at Industrial Park, which is further than the distance from Clifton to the current hospital. Many also wondered, if a new facility is built, what would happen to the old building? Could the county use it for anything else?

The Wayne County Commission will meet in regular session on Monday, November 21. Due to our early printing deadline for the week of Thanksgiving, The News will not be able to share what happens at that meeting until our next paper on November 30. The hospital issue is the main thing on the agenda for that meeting.

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