Finance Committee to revisit hospital contract

Bartlett's $55 million budget held up until contract is decided

Posted: Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Juneau Assembly Finance Committee will wait until it decides on the Bartlett Regional Hospital contract impasse before approving the hospital's budget.

The $55 million budget proposed by hospital management for fiscal year 2006 is based on a new three-tiered health system and a 1 percent salary increase - two things union representatives and members refused to accept.

With a 1 percent wage increase, union representatives said they would have to pay more to keep the same health benefits. The old contract expired in January.

The Assembly had its first hearing on the impasse Monday. Members went into an executive session Wednesday evening right after the committee meeting. By press time, the Assembly hasn't reached a decision.

If the Assembly approved the budget and later amended the hospital's contract offer, hospital officials would have to come back and ask for a revised budget, said Finance Director Craig Duncan.

Regardless of the contract negotiations, the hospital board proposes a 4 percent rate increase for patients to cover rising expenses in the Public Employees' Retirement System, malpractice insurance, unemployment insurance and subsidy to Rainforest Recovery Center (formerly Juneau Recovery Hospital).

A large portion of the budget would cover a 16 percent increase in PERS, whose rate is determined by the Alaska Legislature. Another major expense is the recovery center's $982,000 deficit.

Since Bartlett Regional Hospital took over the Rainforest Recovery Center in 2001, the recovery center has been operating in the red.

The center had a deficit of $500,000 in 2001 and is projected to lose almost $1 million for 2006, hospital administrator Bob Valiant said.

To save money, the hospital board proposes stopping a patrol downtown by emergency medical technicians who pick up intoxicated people between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.

This proposal faced opposition from City Manager Rod Swope, Fire Chief Eric Mohrmann and Police Chief Richard Gummow.

"Reduction of their services will not make the problem go away," Mohrmann said. "It will only transfer it to Juneau police or Capital City Fire and Rescue."

Mohrmann estimates that the fire department would see a 58 percent increase in its call volume if the recovery center reduces its service.

"Medical transports will be delayed," he said.

Swope said it would cost the city at least $20,000 more with the center's reduced service hours.

Although the committee didn't decide on the issue, Mayor Bruce Botelho said he thinks the recovery center is not fully integrated with the hospital and that the decision to cut its services counters the hospital's mission to provide comprehensive health care.

Assembly member Randy Wanamaker suggested the recovery center should keep the service until the hospital and the city find a cost-effective solution.

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