Declines in patient traffic has Memorial shuffling costs

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A cloud is forming over Memorial Health System’s finances: lower patient volumes.

So far, Memorial has been able to balance the trend — down 4 percent from last year and an additional 2 percent from the figure budgeted for this year — by lowering expenses. Eventually, though, layoffs and fewer services could be in the offing.

But Memorial isn’t there yet, said Mike Scialdone, chief financial officer for the system. The administration is keeping a close eye on matters and adjusting accordingly, he said.

“The staffing costs, supply costs, contracting services all go down (when patient volumes drop),” he said.

While no layoffs have thus far been ordered, the hospital system is “flexing” its workforce, meaning in part reducing the use of part-time labor and leaving unfilled positions left vacant by retirements or departures.

Thanks to such moves, Memorial is on track to meet its projected budget for the year and remains profitable.

“It’s something a lot of people don’t understand,” Scialdone said. “We aren’t a business that has very fixed costs, so we can manage those expenses if we remain flexible.”

Patient volume started dropping at the end of 2008, the start of the recession. Scialdone said the hospital still isn’t seeing the same number of patients it saw two years ago.

“It’s still down,” he said. “We budgeted a 2 percent increase, which is very conservative. We thought it might come back this year, but so far it just hasn’t.”

Volumes are down because more people are putting off elective surgeries because of worries over job security and financial obligations.

Admissions from January to May were 12,230, down slightly from the 12,262 figure for the same period in 2009. The hospital had budgeted more than 13,000 patients by May of this year.

The hospital’s earnings before interest, depreciation and amortization (EBIDA) amounted to $29.3 million, above the $26 million budgeted for the five months of the year.

Memorial’s income equaled $8.1 million for the period, higher than the $7.9 million budgeted.

Long-term care center moves

Select Long-Term Care Hospital will move from the St. Francis Health Care Center this week.

The hospital has leased space in the Pikes Peak Avenue location for 10 years, and is moving to the new St. Francis Hospital at 6001 E. Woodman Road.

Penrose-St. Francis Health Services is selling the building on Pikes Peak, and has asked tenants to find new locations by the end of the year. Pikes Peak Hospice is the exception — but it, too, is looking for space.

Select will now move to the sixth floor of St. Francis Medical Center and double its footprint. The new 30-bed facility will feature all private patient rooms.

Select Long-Term Care Hospital treats patients who need longer acute-care hospitalization for critical and complex medical and surgical conditions.

New program connect rural patients with urban specialists

Colorado’s largest health care provider and its largest health insurance company have teamed to give patients in four Colorado communities expanded access to doctors and specialists using advanced telehealth technology.

Connect Care is a collaboration with United Health Care and Centura Health. The telehealth technology equips medical sites with audio and video equipment, including remote monitoring equipment such as digital stethoscopes, which allows remote doctors to examine them.

Rural medical facilities in Buena Vista, Lamar, Del Norte and Leadville will be able to connect with doctors in Denver, Littleton and Pueblo for both routine and specialty care services.

Patients will have access to ear, nose and throat doctors, as well as specialists in gastroenterology, cardiology, critical care, pulmonology, neurosurgery and pre- and post-surgery consultations.

As many as 4,800 visits are expected each year via the Connected Care clinics. The program is covered under many insurance programs, including United Healthcare, Medicaid and Medicare.

Amy Gillentine can be reached at 719-329-5205 or at Friend her on Facebook.