As admissions and emergency room visits have declined to 2009-2010 service levels, Bartlett Regional Hospital’s board of directors is looking for budget-balancing options that will keep them stable through the upcoming years.
The board’s Finance Committee held a special meeting on Tuesday night to get an outlook on where the hospital administration is with the budget process, and to give a bit clearer of an idea of what it wants to see.
“We want make sure that we are on schedule in terms of putting together budgets for the next couple of months and make sure staff and the board are on the same page,” said committee member Dr. Alex Malter.
Interim Chief Financial Officer Dennis Stillman said the board is doing the budget differently than in years past, getting a lot more feedback and input from department directors.
“We have gotten all the budgets in and we’ve looked at them,” Stillman said. “We have scheduled meetings with the directors over the next three days. There’s about half an hour for each one of them. What we told them on Monday at a meeting was that the first review of the budget is really educating the senior leadership team. None of them have been involved in the budget process previously. Part of it is an education process making sure we understand the issues with the departments.”
Stillman said another part is asking each department to take a look at staffing levels compared to patient volumes and justifying staffing numbers above the 2009-2010 levels. Stillman said some departments have seen increases in programming or different services that require more people.
“Expect follow-up meetings with directors after that,” he said. “We’re right where I think we’d expect to be in this point in time with building a budget. It’s a different process for them too.”
Stillman said there are between $6 million and $7 million in capital expenditure requests. He said that’s normal, and in the past the hospital has been able to grant most of those kinds of requests.
“I don’t recall anything that was delayed for a significant amount of time,” Stillman said. “If we have to delay anything, there will be people who will be disappointed if we did. … but we are in a good place to say, if we have to delay a year, we can do that.”
Malter said next Tuesday’s meeting should bring a better look at the financial outlook for this fiscal year. The hospital believes it will balance out the year, but Tuesday should bring February’s financial reports to see if the trends are holding steady.
Stillman said Tuesday also will bring a better look at building the budget. He said they will have input from all of the directors by then, and then can seek input from the committee.
“If the budget doesn’t look that much better than the preliminary did four weeks ago, will the finance committee expect to get from you all two or three different approaches for how we deal with the difference?” Malter asked.
He also asked if the board would have enough time to give input on those so that they can be reflected in the budget.
Stillman said he’s told the directors to not expect an answer on finalized department budgets by next week. He said that the board actually will have a lot more time than usual with the budget process, since it hasn’t gotten budget information in the past until April — right before it presents the budget to the Assembly.
Stillman said the directors are also a lot more involved in the process — some liking it more than others — and believes the overall budget will be a lot better because of the teamwork.
Kristen Bomengen, a hospital board member who is not on the committee, said she would like to see not just options for how to balance the budget and keep it stable over the upcoming years, but also see what the impacts of their options will be.
“I think the board should decide, ‘is that the impact we want to have?’” she said.
Stillman said so far the direction from the committee and board has been “nothing is off limits” with a preference of no rate increases.
“Those are pretty loose guidelines for how we’re going to come back and respond to that,” Stillman said.
The committee will meet again at 5:15 p.m. March 20 in a regular session at the hospital’s administrative board room.
• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at email@example.com.