By Karen Hutchinson-Talaski
HERMISTON Federal regulations are forcing the shut down of Good Shepherd Medical Center's Cardiac Rehabilitation Center.
The center will close its doors on May 1.
According to Rick Rice, spokesperson for the hospital, the closure is due to new Medicare regulations that require direct physician supervision, rather than the registered nurse who oversees patient care with the guidance of a physician.
"We tried to have a physician who could supervise while attending other duties," Rice said. "They (Medicare) wouldn't go for it."
Many patients who utilize the program are on Medicare, so the loss of Medicare certification has doomed the program, says Rice.
The nearest rehabilitation center is at Kadlec Hospital in Richland, Wash. Rice says the Medicare rules seem to be written for larger hospitals in urban areas, not for small hospitals like Hermiston.
"The Good Shepherd program is special," Rice said. "Few small, rural hospitals have a cardiac rehab program and Good Shepherd often struggled to have sufficient patients to sustain its program."
Cardiac patient Harry Trump has nothing but good things to say about Hermiston's program.
"It saved my life," Hermiston resident Trump said. "It is restoring my life again. I hate to see it closed down."
Trump says he feels sorry for those who are just beginning their therapy.
"It's really a tragedy," he said. "There are lots of people with heart problems in this area."
Trump says people will have trouble getting to their appointments. He said his daughter drove him in the beginning. Many people use the senior taxi service, too.
Registered nurse Stacie Lyons-Rhor says she has between seven and 12 patients she is monitoring.
"The demand is going up," Lyons-Rhor said. "Baby boomers are getting older. There's so many people who want it to be here."
Trump says Lyons-Rhor started him out slowly to build up his strength before getting on a treadmill. The nurse hooks Trump up to a heart monitor to ensure his heart beats and blood pressure are within normal ranges.
Most patients work with Lyons-Rhor for about six weeks. She works mainly with post coronary artery bypass graft patients.
"I just love it (the job)," Lyons-Rhor said. "It will be missed in this community."
Rice says no other local hospitals other than Kadlec has a cardiac rehab program.
"Pendleton doesn't have one, The Dalles doesn't have one," Rice said. "We are proud to be doing it."