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Surgery departs Franklin Hospital, but the hospital will remain

  • Franklin Regional Hospital is seen on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Franklin Regional Hospital is seen on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Franklin Regional Hospital is seen Thursday. The hospital’s surgical unit will shut in April as part of a retrenchment by LRGHealthcare. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • Franklin Regional Hospital is seen on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Franklin Regional Hospital is seen on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Franklin Regional Hospital is seen on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Friday, February 16, 2018

Eight years ago, Franklin Regional Hospital was riding high, celebrating its 100th birthday and the recent expansion of its emergency services as part of $142 million in federally supported investment by LRGHealthcare, which had bought the hospital in 2004.

Now, however, things aren’t so great.

On Tuesday came news that the hospital’s surgical unit will shut in April as part of a retrenchment by LRGHealthcare, which is struggling with deficits caused in part by a decline in patient numbers and changes in health care reimbursements and payments.

For years, Franklin Hospital’s surgical unit has performed only elective surgeries, such as colonoscopies, tonsillectomies and dental surgery. Its closing will not affect the hospital’s emergency room or outpatient services, or the special psychiatric unit that opened in 2013, said Sandy Marshall, director of public relations for LRGHealthcare.

Nonetheless, any cutbacks in the hospital are worrisome to the city of Franklin, where the hospital is the second-largest private employer, with roughly 250 employees, and has long been a source of pride.

“The hospital is extremely important to the city. It helps the city on many initiatives, working with the schools, with the opioid crisis. They’re great partners with us,” said Mayor Tony Giunta.

“It’s going to have an effect, no doubt about it. I hope it’s short term, and the decision is replaced by increases in services elsewhere in the hospital, perhaps elderly care ... which are going to be needed, more so than before, because of the aging population,” Giunta said. “At the city level, we are ready to do whatever we need to do to be a partner, to help them.”

However, he added, “we also understand that it’s a business decision.”

Marshall said the operating room performed about 600 to 700 surgeries, far fewer than made economic sense. “The target utilization for any OR is 85 percent. Franklin was far below that.”

She noted that LRGHealthcare has closed several smaller operating rooms.

“Up until probably five or six years ago, we had several surgical services sites and all of them were a little bit underutilized. We’ve gone from five, down to two,” she said. “Basically, what we’re doing is consolidating to best utilize our staff and our spaces. ... The (Franklin) surgical staff will be integrated into Laconia and Hillside surgical center, if they choose to be.”

The move is part of a retrenchment by LRGHealthcare announced Tuesday, which the company said would save about $7 million a year. It included the decision to close the inpatient labor and delivery services at Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia and send maternity patients to Concord Hospital’s Family Center. Franklin Hospital’s delivery services closed years ago.

Other consolidation moves include closing Moultonborough Family Practice and Newfound Family Practice in Bristol, Laconia Clinic Pediatrics, and the Laconia Clinic Lab.

Franklin Regional Hospital has just 25 inpatient beds. To put that in context, Concord Hospital has almost 10 times as many, with 238 staffed beds. It is categorized as a critical access community hospital, a designation by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that increases its reimbursement under federal programs, a system created in the early 1990s to help keep rural hospitals open.

Despite that program, many rural hospitals around the country are struggling as traditional hospitals absorb a greater share of health care spending.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)