Big changes are afoot at Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital starting the first quarter of 2020, with Sentara Dominion Health Medical Associates receiving a Rural Health Clinic (RHC) designation for six practice locations, four of them in Halifax County.

Those locations include Sentara Halifax Family Medicine, Sentara Volens Family Medicine, Sentara Halifax Pediatrics, Sentara Obstetrics and Gynecology, Sentara Chase City Family Medicine and Sentara Clarksville Family Medicine.

Other changes also will become effective Jan. 1, with Sentara Woodview and Sentara MeadowView Terrace transitioning to Sentara Life Care, and Sentara Halifax Home Health and Sentara Halifax Hospice and Palliative Care transitioning to Sentara Enterprises.

At this point, five additional primary care providers are being recruited as a result of the transition to the Rural Health Clinic model, and each of them will have support staff, according to Sentara Halifax Regional President Jason Studley.

It takes approximately a year to get the process of becoming a Rural Health Clinic approved, so it’s too early to put an exact number on the job openings as a result of the designation, according to Studley, who added, there will be job openings rather than job losses.

“It will expand our ability to take care of Medicare and Medicaid patients,” he explained. “As healthcare continues to change and evolve, we are always searching for ways to create a sustainable, fiscally responsible way to deliver the highest-quality patient care to our community,” Studley wrote in a letter l announcing the changes.

“This designation will enhance financial performance, improve access for patients and increase our ambulatory footprint in an effort to sustain and better serve the community.” During the first quarter of 2020, Sentara Dominion Health Medical Associates (SDHMA) will receive a Rural Health Clinic designation for six practice locations that include family medicine, pediatrics and obstetrics/gynecology.

The Virginia Department of Health requires new policies and procedures for approval before the six locations can be designated as rural health clinics, according to Studley.

Operational changes at Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital supporting the designation include operating with 49 unique inpatient beds which are supported 24 hours a day by a dedicated observation/quick admit/inpatient hospice unit, he further explained.

“This unit is independent of the 49-bed total and will allow for greater bed control, enabling us to comply with the parameters of the RHC program and provide the highest standard of care to our patients and their families,” said Studley.

The project will be implemented through six focus teams, one a hospital designated observation unit, one for inpatient bed management and documentation, one focused on practices, accreditation and approval, and one focused on length of stay opportunity.

The remaining focus teams will concentrate on revenue cycles and hospital regulations, according to Studley.

“Successful implementation will involve a team effort on this high priority project, and I have every confidence that we will accomplish this goal,” Studley added.

“We believe the Rural Health Clinic will allow an opportunity for future expansion of services into more rural communities, increasing access to needed services and increase our ability to attract additional primary care providers to these areas,” Studley said.

Additional initiatives announced by Studley occurring on Jan. 1 involve Sentara Woodview and Sentara MeadowView Terrace transitioning to Sentara Life Care, and Sentara Halifax Home Health and Sentara Halifax Hospice and Palliative Care transitioning to Sentara Enterprises.

“The consolidation of nursing homes and home care is a natural outgrowth of the merger with Sentara that took place in 2013,” Studley explained.

“During our six years as a part of Sentara Healthcare, we have completed several significant projects and initiatives associated with our integration into the Sentara structure. Many … have been touched by integration projects like rebranding, back office integration, human resource consolidation, and more recently, our conversion to Sentara eCare.

“We continue to provide valued services and opportunities to expand access while keeping health care affordable for our community,” he continued.

The transition of Sentara Woodview and Sentara MeadowView Terrace to Sentara Life Care is a natural next step for both facilities, “as we strive for consistency in management, best practices and information systems as well as excellence in long-term care for residents in our service area,” explained Studley.

In transitioning to Sentara Enterprises, Sentara Halifax Home Health and Sentara Halifax Hospice and Palliative Care are “joining a robust network of programs and gain the support and shared knowledge of our colleagues while continuing to provide excellent care to patients here in Southern Virginia,” he said.

The hospital president concluded saying, “The coming year stands to be an exciting time of growth, change and alignment that will position us for a successful future with Sentara Healthcare. I am immensely proud of the work being done here at Sentara Halifax, and I am optimistic that these changes will create a robust, sustainable model of rural health care that will serve our patients with excellence for years to come.”