Hospital’s L&D unit ‘saved’

Published 5:47 pm Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday morning a group charged with salvaging the was-to-be-shuttered labor and delivery unit at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital heard the words they’d been working so hard for since April: The department will remain open.

The hospital’s board voted last month to keep the unit open at a minimum for a year, assuming all players in a roughly $240,000 fundraising effort came to the table.

Tuesday, the Marengo County commission tossed its chip in the stack, insuring that the department will deliver babies at least well into 2012.

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“As of now, we’re operating under the assumption that we’ll be here for at least a year,” hospital administrator Mike Marshall said of the labor and delivery department. “And I think you can add the expectation of (infinity) to that.”

Long term hope for the department has sprung, not only from the cash infusion, but from an increase in operating performance as expense reductions put in place earlier this spring began to take hold.

Marshall told the panel Friday that the hospital had a positive cash flow of 13 percent in April, bringing its fiscal year cash flow to a positive 1 percent.

Marshall also noted that expenses for May were approximately $200,000 lower than its fiscal year average, all good signs as the hospital works to eliminate the red ink from its balance sheet.

“We’re starting to see some of our expense reductions get some traction,” he said.

The elimination of labor and delivery was approximately $600,000 of a $3.2 million expense reduction plan, but that was paused in April with the assembly of a group of city, county and hospital leaders as well as local physicians.

This month, the City of Demopolis and the Marengo County Commission agreed to contribute $100,000 each to the hospital as part of an agreement to keep labor and delivery open for a minimum of 12 months.

The doctors who practice in the unit agreed to take a $150 reduction in service fees per delivery, which equates to approximately $40,000 annually.

The hospital board agreed to absorb the remaining losses from the department as expense reductions and plans to increase revenues began to develop in other departments.