About Amy Umble:
Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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HealthSouth overcomes Golden Living’s objection, gets early approval to expand

HealthSouth wants to add 12 beds to its Fredericksburg hospital.

HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Fredericksburg has cleared an early hurdle in its attempt to get state approval for 12 new beds.

Staff members at the Virginia Department of Health have recommended conditional approval of the project. Their recommendation is contingent on HealthSouth agreeing to provide free and reduced-price care to the poor, equal to 4.6 percent of gross patient revenues.

The staff report, published Friday afternoon, says that the 12-bed addition at HealthSouth is needed and would be financially feasible. The hospital is “functionally operating at capacity,” the report says.

HealthSouth opened in 2007 with 40 beds. It is the region’s only inpatient rehabilitation hospital, located on the hill behind Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg. 

 The state staff’s recommendation came despite the objection of Golden Living Community, a 177-bed nursing home on State Route 3 in Spotsylvania County.

In a letter to the state, Janette Coleman, a Golden Living official, said that the new beds would hurt Golden Living financially. She said Golden Living’s occupancy rate has dropped from 95 percent in 2008 to 85 percent this year. “We believe the supply of beds is sufficient to meet consumer demand,” she wrote.

However, the staff report says that HealthSouth is not really a competitor of Golden Living, since HealthSouth’s criteria for admission are stricter, and its patients must  undergo at least three hours a day of rigorous rehabilitation. If patients can’t tolerate this kind of intensive rehab, they go to a skilled nursing facility like Golden Living, the report says.

The report also says that HealthSouth is not to blame for Golden Living’s troubles. More likely, it says, the nursing home has been affected by the opening last year of a direct competitor, the Falls Run Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Stafford County.

The final decision on HealthSouth’s application rests with Dr. Karen Remley, state health commissioner. She is expected to decide by mid-October.

(For more on HealthSouth’s proposal, see the story soon in the paper. An earlier blog post on the project can be found here. Another post on why HealthSouth needs state permission to expand can be found here.)