Tanner Health System opposes behavioral hospital

by Clay Neely - clay@newnan.com

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US HealthVest has proposed converting part of the old Piedmont Newnan Hospital on Hospital Road to a behavioral health facility. On behalf of Tanner Health System, Wayne Senfeld, LPC, Ed.S., senior vice president of business development and behavioral health, opposes the proposal.


Tanner Health System opposes the proposed Newnan Behavioral Hospital, citing among other things, a lack of need for the facility, hospital officials said in a statement.

The Carroll County-based hospital also criticized the percentage of non-insured patients the Newnan facility would see, as well as raising concerns about the separation of different age groups.

Tanner said their inpatient facility, Willowbrooke at Tanner in Villa Rica, currently provides 52 beds, with separate units for adults, children and adolescents. They said they have ample space to serve the community’s needs.

US HealthVest, which wants to convert part of the old Piedmont Newnan Hospital on Hospital Road to a behavioral health facility, said the complex would have 60 beds for inpatient care, of which 10 were reserved for active duty military and veterans.

Tanner responded to questions from The Newnan Times-Herald about their opposition in a three-page written statement.

According to Tanner, Willowbrooke has also received state approval to add 30 more beds to its inpatient facility, increasing the facility’s capacity to 82 beds. The facility’s 40 adult beds have an average of seven to eight vacant beds at a time, with an occupancy rate of 81 percent. Following the facility’s 30-bed expansion, the projected pediatric occupancy rate for the facility will be 65 percent.

“Furthermore, the US HealthVest facility plan does not account for separate units for geriatric, adult, adolescent and pediatric patients.,” the statement said. “The facility also does not plan for the necessary separation of patients with very different behavioral health needs.”

Tanner also alleged US HealthVest’s average adolescent and children inpatient stays were too long, citing US HealthVest projections of an average of 13 days.

“Willowbrooke at Tanner has successfully treated adolescents and children for years, with an average inpatient length of stay of 5.47 days,” the statement said.

In a written response, US HealthVest refuted those remarks.

“Clearly Tanner misread our application because our cost projections and facility drawings enable us to design a state-of-the art behavioral hospital that allows for the separation of patient populations and factors in all necessary renovation improvements that ensure patient safety,” said Richard Kresch, M.D., CEO of US HealthVest.

“While Tanner contends that our child and adolescent length of stay projection is too high, it is consistent with the national average child and adolescent length of stay of over 10 days, per the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems (NAPHS) 2012 Annual Survey,” he added. “Furthermore, lengths of stay as short or under five days may not allow for optimal care for children and adolescents, providing little opportunity for family and community support.”

Tanner also criticized the amount of money US HealthVest would spend covering non-insured patients.

“While Willowbrooke at Tanner, as part of a non-profit regional health system, serves all patients regardless of ability to pay—including uninsured adults, children and adolescents who accounted for almost 11 percent of the program’s inpatient care days last year - US HealthVest indicated in its filings with the state that they expect to allocate resources to care for only 2.2 percent of its inpatient care days to the uninsured,” said Wayne Senfeld, LPC, Ed.S., senior vice president of business development and behavioral health for Tanner Health System.

US HealthVest’s Kresch responded by saying “Tanner has clearly failed to read our proposal and has made several misrepresentations and inaccurate statements. Newnan Behavioral Hospital will be financially accessible to everyone by treating all patients regardless of ability to pay. Our charity care commitment is a minimum of 3 percent of revenue and, historically, we have provided charity care well in excess of 3 percent.”

According to the statement, Willowbrooke at Tanner also has provided psychiatric care in the emergency department at Piedmont Newnan Hospital for more than five years.

“The service is engaged with officials from eight regional counties—including Coweta County—working alongside juvenile court officials, corrections officials, truancy councils and others to provide effective and comprehensive care to individuals from all walks of life,” the statement said.

In the past year Willowbrooke has handled more than 4,700 admissions to its inpatient and outpatient programs, according to Tanner’s statement. The service has admitted patients from 112 Georgia counties and seven states since the inpatient facility opened in 2009. The service also provided almost 10,600 free, confidential behavioral health assessments to residents from 28 Georgia counties, including Coweta. It also offers free transportation for many outpatients.

“Willowbrooke at Tanner continues to have capacity to serve the community,” Senfeld said.

“While Tanner typically does not get involved in certificate of need matters, US HealthVest is not proposing a facility that would be good for the community or patients” he added.

To date, more than 75 letters of support for the new facility have been written. Those include from Piedmont Newnan Hospital, the city of Newnan, Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce, Coweta Commission of Veterans Affairs, the Coweta County School System and others.

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Follow Clay Neely at www.twitter.com/clayneely



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