Bartlett Regional Hospital’s admissions are dropping — and were 10 percent under expectations in the month of January.
That translates to a huge net income drop for the hospital — to the tune of $1.1 million in January. Over the course of this fiscal year the hospital is $4.3 million behind its projections.
Does that mean the hospital’s facing a big deficit? No. Dr. Alex Malter, board member, explained at Thursday’s hospital board meeting they are projecting the hospital to break even for net income — net income factors in amortization and depreciation. So while the hospital is now anticipating a break-even budget at the end of the year, it will still have a balance of about $4 million to $5 million.
“We are 12-13 percent below the line,” Malter said. “The majority of decrease in the net revenue, the majority of the difference of actual versus predicted is our admissions are substantially off compared to budget. They are not only off from budget, they are even down compared to where we were last year.”
The hospital budget had anticipated a slight increase in patient admissions over last year.
“That makes up most of the variation in revenues, both inpatient and outpatient,” Malter said. “That really drives the fact we are so substantially off compared to where we want to be.”
Malter said this means the hospital likely won’t have the funds in the short term to do some of the projects it wants to, but didn’t give examples.
Malter said one aspect of the shortfall isn’t as disconcerting as initially thought. The board was concerned that the break-even budget would have affected the bond covenant.
“Even if our statement looks like zero, that $4 million is usable for our debt,” Malter said. “It’s not going to be breaking our bond covenant.”
Reed Reynolds clarified for the board it is the finance committee’s intent to have a special meeting to address the declining admission issue and how to reverse it.
Board chairman Bob Storer also wanted more research on whether this was indeed a national trend or something more indicative of local issues.
“I’m told revenues are declining nationally in hospitals,” he said. “Is this a short-term trend in the economy? A long-term trend?”
Dr. Nathan Peimann, board member, said it is a national trend and it’s not something that’s projected to end anytime soon.
“We’re in a hiccup right now,” he said. “A lot of things we used to bring in and treated in the hospital are being sent home and managed on an outpatient basis. We have less sick people. As we see our demographics change we will have more sick people that will require admission.”
But when that turn-around will happen is unclear.
In other hospital business, board member Kristen Bomengen gave a review of what the Management Transition Committee has done in its past three meetings regarding the hiring of a long-term CEO and chief financial officer.
Bomengen said the committee recommended moving forward with hiring a CFO and not waiting for a CEO to be in place. It was previously considered to wait until the CEO was in place, and that person would be in on the decision of who the next CFO will be. Interim CEO John Vowell advised against that proposal. He said the CFO process is, or can be, a lot longer than hiring a new CEO. The board will have to go through the CFO job description and identify what skills the new CFO will bring to the table.
“If we are able to fulfill what we think is necessary, if we find that individual I wouldn’t want to delay a decision,” Vowell said. “There are still some options available.”
Board member Lauree Morton was initially in favor of waiting, because the two positions work so closely together that she wanted to make sure the two people meshed well together. Peimann said that Garth Hamblin, the prior CFO, worked for the hospital for 23-24 years and went through several CEOs and it worked out.
The board unanimously approved moving forward with the CFO hiring.
Bomengen said another action item the committee recommended is moving responsibility of the hiring to the executive team, including the interim CEO, and out of the committee so it can focus on a CEO. The board unanimously voted in favor. Morton said it’s something she’s wanted to see from the start.
Another recommendation from the committee, also unanimously approved, was to enter into negotiations with Quick Leonard Kieffer, a “nationally known, reputable search firm” to assist in search for a new CEO. The committee interviewed three firms.
“We were pleased with one over the others,” Bomengen said. “This one anticipated our questions before we got to them. They also have some familiarity with Juneau. ... Also, they were the only ones who suggested if the person we hired left within three years they would come back for a re-do. None of the others offered that.”
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