Watertown's Samaritan Medical Center could soon see the return of three medical residency positions.
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D. - NY) announced Thursday that, after his push, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has proposed a new rule that would give residency slots back to SMC.
The positions were lost more than three years ago due to a change in the way the hospital's residency program was classified.
Schumer says Samaritan was misclassified in 2011 as "not rural," which meant it lost Medicare reimbursement for more than three of its residency slots.
Since that time, Schumer says he has fought to rectify this "unfair determination" and find a way for Samaritan to regain its lost slots, which are crucial in Samaritan's efforts to train new doctors.
The new provision, proposed by CMS as part of its larger inpatient hospital payment rule, states that, "additional consideration (will be given) to any hospital where slots were taken erroneously." This means that, if enacted, Samaritan will be prioritized for any slots that become available in New York state.
Schumer says this is a big win for Samaritan, and urged CMS to include this language as part of its final hospital payment rule, expected to come out in August.
According to Schumer, SMC is the primary hospital in the area serving over 120,000 New Yorkers, has 246 acute care beds, and operates a successful medical resident training program; the hospital is of the utmost importance to Watertown and the surrounding rural community.
Samaritan treats approximately 11,000 admissions and 240,000 outpatient registrations annually. It has the only medical education program within 70 miles.
Currently there are 12 resident physicians and seven medical students in training at SMC.
Schumer says the loss of three slots has been a serious issue for the hospital and for the training of physicians that serve the North Country, many of whom remain in the area and practice medicine there over the long term.
According to Schumer, CMS staff at one point agreed that Samaritan has been misclassified, but until this proposed rule, there has been no method of appeal for a wrong decision and the hospital has been forced to absorb the cuts.