As rural hospitals struggle, Wayne HealthCare frames $60M expansion in Darke County

While many rural hospitals have reported struggling or closing, Wayne HealthCare is finishing the frame on a $60 million addition that’s the health system’s largest single health care investment.

The Greenville-based health system on Friday placed the last steel beam on the 85,000-square-foot addition.

“The hospital remains in good shape. What we’ve had is pretty good stewardship of the board and the management team working together,” said Wayne Deschambeau, president and CEO.

SNEAK PEAK: See renderings of Wayne Healthcare expansion

Since 2010, there have been 120 rural hospital closures, including 19 last year, according to the tally by University of North Carolina Rural Health Research Program.

Rural hospitals face a wide range of different challenges compared to their large metro peers, from declining small town populations to high rates of patients who are uninsured, under-insured or covered by relatively lower paying public insurance programs. Many of these hospitals are independent and don’t have a larger network to lean on or negotiate with.

Wayne HealthCare is located in Darke County, which has a population of around 56,000.

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One advantage Wayne HealthCare had going into the construction project was that it had zero capital debt and money in the bank. When they embarked on their first $47 million phase nine years ago, they had $50 million saved up and access to good financing through a bond.

“The rural hospital environment is threatened because typically they don’t have the sources of capital, and particularly if you’re not part of a big system you don’t have a sugar daddy so to speak to lend you money to stay in business. That’s why we’ve been fortunate that our board and financial people have stayed ahead of the game,” Deschambeau said.

Their revenue increased 14% from 2018 to 2019, said Deschambeau. The hospital has had good growth in orthopedic care, boosted with the adoption of new robotic-arm assisted technology, which about doubled their total knee surgeries.

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Independent rural hospitals can struggle with purchasing and recruiting, but Deschambeau said the hospital has been helped in both areas being being part of the Ohio State Health Network, founded by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

They saved an excess of $1 million through the network’s group purchasing power and saved more than $250,000 on its biomedical engineering expenses attending to all the medical machines. Additionally, he said being able to use the OSU name in recruiting is a part of their success in attracting young professionals to their medical team.

They also work with other systems, like Kettering Health Network’s anesthesia and radiology teams. He said working with Premier Health, they have telehealth stroke services, and being part of the Radiation Oncology Services joint venture means more patients can get radiation treatment close to home.

Credit: Timothy Clopp

Credit: Timothy Clopp

“Historically they’d have to go to downtown Dayton to get those services and for the past decade they’ve been getting them right here in the community,” Deschambeau said.

The new expansion fits into their plan for the future by adopting more modern trends in hospital care.

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“The needs and expectations of the communities we serve are growing, and we need to expand our facility to help meet those needs and expectations” said Jeff Subler, project manager for the expansion and Vice President of Support Services at Wayne HealthCare.

Wayne HealthCare’s new addition will be the new home for their Special Beginnings birthing center. While it will have the same capacity, its 50% larger, with six private labor and delivery rooms, three private postpartum rooms and two private recovery rooms.

The medical surgical floor will have 32 private inpatient rooms, moving away from its current unit of semi-private rooms. The rooms can be adjusted for patients who need an ICU level so they don’t need to be transferred to another unit.

The new section also includes a 10,000 square foot Wellness Center and gym, featuring an indoor track.

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