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New hospital to fill need in north Idaho

Long-term care facility won't compete with acute-care services

POST FALLS, Idaho (AP) — A hospital scheduled to open in February in this northern Idaho town will fill a medical gap in the inland Northwest by providing long-term care for patients whose average stay is about a month.

"We will have an intense level of care," Rick Richards, CEO of Northern Idaho Advanced Care Hospital, told The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, Wash.

The $15 million hospital is designed to treat patients with multiple trauma, people in comas and with brain injuries, patients on ventilators, stroke patients and others with severe medical problems. It's owned by Albuquerque, N.M.-based Ernest Health Care.

"We will be able to take them to that next level, which could be rehabilitation or home," said Chad Hutson, hospital marketing director.

Area residents who need such care have previously been sent to long-term care facilities in Seattle or Denver, kept in acute-care hospitals like Kootenai Medical Center or sent to nursing homes.

St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane provides long-term rehabilitation for patients, but only those who are medically stable.

"It's our view that this is a very positive addition to our regional mix," said St. Luke's spokesman Steve Becker. "The kinds of patients they care for are unique and different than we care for at St. Luke's."

Ernest Health Care was calling the facility a rehabilitation hospital, but Richards said that didn't accurately describe it. The hospital does have a 4-foot-deep exercise pool, a gym with exercise equipment and rooms for occupational therapists and speech therapists. It also has a room where patients can practice household tasks such as cooking and laundry.

Northern Idaho Advanced Care Hospital isn't expected to compete with acute-care hospitals in the region by luring away revenue-generating patients.

"There shouldn't be much competitive overlap," said Joe Morris, Kootenai Medical Center's chief financial officer. "Their presence could help us financially."

Long-term acute-care hospitals mostly serve Medicare patients — senior citizens whose health care is covered by government insurance.

"We get paid based on diagnosis. We get paid a lump sum" by Medicare, Morris said.

At Kootenai Medical Center, the average patient stay is 3.6 days, and the average stay of a Medicare patient is just more than four days.

"When we get a patient who doesn't get better, we lose money on that patient," Morris said.