The House signed off on an expansion for Regions Hospital Wednesday, just weeks after the Department of Health said its plan wasn’t in the public interest.
Passed 112-15, as amended, HF3202 would give the St. Paul hospital an exception to a law banning the construction of new hospitals in the state. Sponsored by Rep. Joe Schomacker (R-Luverne), the bill would authorize the 28th exception in the 34-year history of the moratorium.
The bill now travels to the Senate where Sen. Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake) is the sponsor.
Following a public interest analysis, the Health Department found that Regions Hospital officials overestimated the need for new beds when they originally asked to build 100 new ones over several decades. The market disruption, agency officials fear, could prompt other hospitals to cut low-revenue services like inpatient mental health care.
During a May 2 meeting, State Health Economist Stefan Gildemeister gave suggestions to improve the proposal, which include having a specific number of medical/surgical care and obstetrics beds in order to address overcapacity concerns and ensure mental health beds would be part of a new expansion.
A final department review is scheduled to be submitted on or near May 31.
Schomacker evidently took the department’s advice to heart, because he successfully offered an amendment cutting down the 100-bed ask to 76 beds, and designating 20 of them for mental health patients. Additionally, Regions Hospital could not finish the project as a whole until those 20 beds are in place, he said.
Rep. Roz Peterson (R-Lakeville) offered, then withdrew, an amendment to Schomacker’s amendment that would have cut the Regions proposal even further, down to 30 beds. She said she brought the amendment on behalf of Fairview, a competing hospital.
Regions Hospital CEO Megan Remark said during the May 2 meeting the 100-bed target was the result of analyzing future demographic trends. She added that the hospital has a robust inpatient mental health operation, and the idea of constricting patient beds “will have very dire consequences for patients.”
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