Last week’s announcement of the scale back of services at Hi-Line Sletten Cancer Center drew a few reactions over the weekend.
Northern Montana Hospital issued a press release this morning explaining their thoughts.
In the release, Christen Obresley, executive director of Northern Montana Health Care Foundation which helped raise money for the center, said, “Friday’s abrupt announcement was a surprise and disappointment to us. ”
Hospital CEO Dave Henry said the organization is doing all it can to make sure this announcement does not mean the end of Hi-Line cancer treatment.
“We have been aggressively evaluating feasible options to retain cancer services at the Hi-Line Sletten Cancer Center. Consultants have already been hired to evaluate options, including Northern Montana Hospital operating the radiation therapy portion of the Cancer Center, alternative lease options, alternative pharmaceutical purchasing options, and an evaluation of patient volumes and utilization, ” Henry said.
“We will continue our efforts to find a feasible model to care for our cancer patients at the Hi-Line Sletten Cancer Center. ”
“This financial decision by Benefis’ administration is difficult for those of us in patient care to understand, ” said Dr. Bruce Richardson, president of the NMHC Integrated Provider Division, which represents all providers at NMHC. “Hopefully this decision will not affect the close working relationships between our medical communities. ”
We will continue our efforts to find a feasible model to care for our cancer patients at the Hi-Line Sletten Cancer Center, ” Henry said.
The release also mentions the efforts of Sen. Jon Tester to protect the hospital from a new regulation that required an oncologist be on-site for hospitals, by requesting an exemption for hospitals with fewer than 100 beds, like the clinic.
Benefis listed that new regulation as one of two reasons, along with low patient numbers, for the change. They claimed that the center’s ties to Benefis, which has around 500 beds, prevented them from being exempt.
Mike Fierberg, a public affairs contact for the regional Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services office in Denver that is enforcing the regulation, said this morning he is looking into whether Sletten is or would have been exempt, but had no answer by deadline this morning.
On hearing the claim that even the exemption couldn’t save the rural cancer treatment, Tester’s office said, “Jon is disappointed that Benefis chose to cut off vital cancer treatments along the Hi-Line. He’ll keep working hard to improve access to health care across rural Montana. ”