Vibra closing; region losing last provider for acute care

December 22, 2018 GMT

Vibra Hospital of Fort Wayne will close next month, leaving northeast Indiana without a long-term, acute-care provider.

Long-term, acute-care hospitals provide a transition between the intensive-care unit of a traditional hospital and a nursing home or home. Patients have typically experienced strokes, open-heart surgery, amputations or other serious medical events.

The average length of stay is about one month for these patients, who are considered the sickest of the sick.

A local Vibra employee, who is not authorized to speak on behalf of the company, confirmed the closing Friday afternoon. Corporate officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

The Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania-based company’s website on Friday didn’t include Fort Wayne on the map that displays its locations.

Vibra moved into Parkview Hospital Randallia in January 2013 from its former location at 2626 Fairfield Ave. Officials heralded the move, saying patients would have much quicker access to doctors and necessary tests.

The health care provider entered the local market in 2010 when it bought four locations from a South Carolina company that had filed for bankruptcy reorganization.

Vibra officials said then that they expected to succeed where Progressive Healthcare failed because they had developed efficient processes for filing Medicare and insurance company forms.

Despite the company’s paperwork proficiency, the payments long-term, acute-care hospitals now receive have declined to the point where some can’t afford to stay open, said Lou Little, president of the National Association of Long Term Hospitals.

He isn’t privy to Vibra’s financial or strategic decisions but spoke about factors affecting the industry.

About 75 percent of patients in such facilities are Medicare patients, and the federal government is in the midst of a multi-year process of reducing how much Medicare pays for many patients, Little said.

“The industry has been doing somersaults ever since, trying to figure out what they’re going to do,” he said.

Little, who is also president and CEO of Sparrow Specialty Hospital in Lansing, Michigan, explained that only those patients who first spent at least three days in a hospital’s intensive care unit before being transferred straight to a long-term, acute-care hospital qualify for full reimbursement.

Since Medicare payments began to decline in October 2015, about 10 percent of the nation’s 430 long-term, acute-care hospitals have closed, Little said.

Northeast Indiana might not produce enough patients to make such a facility profitable, he said. 

Select Specialty Hospital formally leased space on the seventh and eighth floors of St. Joseph Hospital but is no longer a tenant there. It’s unclear when the Vibra competitor closed that location.

The nearest Vibra-operated long-term, acute-care hospital is 88 miles north, in Battle Creek, Michigan.

The closest one in Indiana is in Portage, which is 110 miles northwest of Fort Wayne.

Little said that without a nearby place to send patients who need long-term, acute care, more of them might remain in the intensive care units at Lutheran Hospital and Parkview Regional Medical Center, occupying beds that could be needed for newly admitted patients.

“The local hospitals,” he said, “won’t be happy.”