Bartlett board OKs 3 % price hike

A 3 percent average price hike is expected to offset sagging volume in Bartlett’s 2013 operating budget. Even with decreases in operating expenses, the hospital expects its budget to just break even.

At the Bartlett Regional Hospital board of directors meeting Tuesday, Dennis Stillman, interim chief financial officer for Bartlett said the cuts will not be spread evenly.

“Some places we might even see lower prices,” Stillman said. The 3 percent bump is the lowest increase since at least 2000, he said.

Patient volumes are expected to remain the same as in 2012, Stillman said, about same as 2009 and 2010. There was a spike in 2011, he said and the hospital staffed up to accommodate, but volume didn’t materialize.

Bartlett budgeted nearly 11 percent to cover bad debt and community funded care. Bartlett expects to lose more than $100,000 from a drop in the City and Borough of Juneau liquor and tobacco tax.

Stillman said the total number of patient days have stayed the same at the hospital, and while admissions decline, length of stay is up.

Emergency room visits average about 1,200 a month and surgeries and “remain virtually constant,” Stillman said.

Bartlett created a 2012 budget expecting $101 million in income. It now expects $93 million this year, Stillman said. This gap is due to volume in health care, he said.

“We budgeted to have about 14 percent more than were we expected,” Stillman said. “You continue to spend when you don’t have excess revenue coming in. You can’t do that forever.” There is no money for new programs. “There is no money to replace things,” Stillman said. “You are replacing the equipment, you aren’t adding services for the community.”

Linda Thomas said Bartlett has cash reserves to operate at a loss for a period of time. She said only 212 patients less can drive down income by $8 million. Thomas said the board was took careful consideration of the budget’s impacts on staff.

“We are looking forward to the future, but we are not making significant changes,” Thomas said. “Looking long term and not being reactive in the short term.”

Stillman recommended a kind of triage with the hospital’s systems which are in most need of repair or replacement.

Volume in 2013 is expected to run the same at 2012.

“We’re staffed up for much more than that,” Stillman said.

The operating budget passed without objection. It now moves to the CBJ Assembly.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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