The Memorial Hospital in Craig sees positive boost in finances | CraigDailyPress.com

The Memorial Hospital in Craig sees positive boost in finances

Lauren Blair

— The Memorial Hospital in Craig has seen some numbers to be happy about in its financial reports in recent months. The hospital experienced a rough financial ride last year, cycling through two CEOs and laying off staff because of low volume, but 2014 seems to be showing a promising turnaround for the organization.

Admissions at the hospital are up 36 percent this year over last year. At the most recent board meeting Sept. 4, TMH Controller Denise Arola revealed a boost in patient revenue for the month of July, as well as an increase in charitable giving, with more than $90,000 in grants and donations received in July. As of June, the year-to-date loss in 2014 was only $41,000 compared to $1.6 million in the red in 2013.

The positive turn is due to a number of factors, not least of which is the stability and leadership provided by the addition of CEO John Rossfeld, who began as interim CEO in January and was announced as the permanent CEO in July.

"We've kind of gotten past some turbulent times," TMH Chief of Marketing and Business Development Jennifer Riley said. "There had been a lack of confidence, especially because of turnover at the CEO level."

Riley reported that Rossfeld is the first CEO in recent years who has taken the initiative to get involved in the community, making it a point to attend Craig City Council and Moffat County commissioners meetings. He also has worked with the Craig Chamber of Commerce to create the Joint Economic Development Advisory Committee to promote positive partnership among major economic players in the community.

Since Rossfeld's arrival, TMH has reached out directly to area residents with a series of community roundtables to solicit feedback from people about what they like and don't like at the hospital. The roundtables have led to changes in the billing process for patients, a new phone system to make the hospital and clinic easier to access and expanded hours at the clinic.

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"In terms of the services we're providing here, it is just getting better and better," Riley said. "I think we're doing a really good job on the patient care side. That's what we're trying to do is win these patients back one at a time."

This year, the hospital has added new staff, including a new general surgeon, urologist, three full-time Emergency Department physicians to replace traveling, substitute physicians and several other staff.

Visits to the clinic have been slightly lower this year, largely because of the loss of two of its providers who left Craig. However, the clinic will add a nurse practitioner and new family practitioner — who is also, notably, an obstetrician — slated to start accepting patients at the clinic Oct. 8.

"By October, we'll be back up to the level we were at two years ago in the clinic," Riley said.

Other larger trends are behind the boost in the numbers, as well. Colorado chose to opt into Medicaid expansion last year, which has brought patients who once qualified for the Colorado Indigent Care Program under the umbrella of Medicaid instead. CICP is a statewide program that offers steep discounts for medical services to qualifying low-income patients and pays the hospital at much lower rates than Medicaid.

In short, TMH is being paid more by Medicaid this year to treat the same patients it treated under CICP last year. Medicaid accounted for 20.3 percent of hospital revenue as of July 2014 compared to 13.1 percent as of July 2013. Meanwhile, the Colorado Indigent Care Program is down to 1.4 percent of revenue compared to 6 percent last year.

To explain the relative rise in patient numbers this year, Riley also pointed out that utilization of the hospital last year was down overall, which she attributes to economic factors and policy changes. Changes in insurance because of health care reform and a slow economy likely caused patients to put off elective care.

Even so, "we were still ahead of our peers," Riley said.

Finally, TMH has been making efforts to improve its admissions procedures from the Emergency Department. By creating more consistent guidelines for ED doctors to admit patients to the hospital, admissions are up 48 percent this year over last, ensuring that patients who need extra or more long-term care go on to receive it.

Arola is quick to point out, however, that financial trends never stay the same for long for a hospital. In fact, she said, there really are no reliable trends.

"Our finances is one of those things that changes month to month," Arola said.

Riley agreed.

"You never know what you're going to get in a day," Riley said. "You can't ever stop trying to do your best."

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com.