Hospital reports “great year” financially

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 31, 2005

Contributed report

Tom Perry spoke for the Board of Directors of Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital after members reviewed the report card covering the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.

“We’ve had a great year,” he said, pointing out the hospital “took care of its people” with raises and bonuses, made capital investments and managed to end the year more than $2.2 million in the black. “You’ve invested in people, and it’s paid off.”

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CEO/Administrator Mike Marshall said the good news was the result of higher out-patient visits, a lower in-patient length of stay, better record-keeping and improved collection of payments.

Marshall plans to share the financial health of the hospital with the Demopolis area over the next few weeks, illustrating where the money comes from and where it goes.

Speaking from the chart he will be using to explain the fiscal health of the hospital, Marshall told the board that the facility absorbed $3.6 million in charity care, didn’t receive full payment from Medicare, Medicaid and other insurers of more than $18 million and recorded almost $1.5 million in bad debts during the year.

Because of raises, bonuses and the hiring of more employees, the hospital’s pay to its 388 employees in salaries and benefits jumped $3.2 million since 2003.

In continuing his good news report, Marshall said the hospital hired six nurses since raises

went into effect, although, like every other hospital, the Demopolis facility will continue to face nursing shortages.

Three doctors are expected to visit Demopolis next week to investigate the possibility of relocating here. They include a general practice/surgeon, an ear-nose-throat physician and a cardiologist.

Marshall said last year the hospital focused on decreasing patient length of stay and increasing outpatient services. The focus for the coming year will be to make individual physician practices more efficient.

Toward that, Marshall asked the board to approve $175,000 to renovate the nursing stations on the second and third floors. The proposed changes will provide space for doctors to work on records and provide the nursing staff with a more effective area.

Perry and Frank Rutledge, reporting on the Employee Relations Committee meeting, said employees are enthusiastic about doing their part to cut costs as well. The hospital has implemented a plan to reimburse workers who submit ideas that save money.

The deadline for the first round of suggestions is November 4. Marshall said 20-25 ideas already have been submitted. Senior management will review each suggestion. For every idea accepted, the employee will receive 25 percent of the savings over a year, up to $500.

“Our people are so much more comfortable speaking their minds” than just two years ago, Perry continued. “I’ve seen (the meeting) go from a waste of time to a good, quality meeting.”

The board approved the recommendations from the medical staff, presented by Chief of Staff Dr. John MacLennan. Reappointed to active staff is Dr. Erik Lessmann, and Dr. Barry J. Gould, podiatrist, was given an initial six-month appointment to the consulting staff.

Marshall also reported:

n The Sleep Lab now is open and has had such a demand that two studies are being conducted each night. Some 30 patients are awaiting Blue Cross/Blue Shield accreditation in January to take advantage of the program.

n The Geri-Psych unit has treated 20 patients so far, with five currently in the facility.

n Dr. John Simmons has started his general surgery practice.