Hospital predicts growth in outpatient services will help budget

WhidbeyHealth leaders are projecting increased use of its birthing center and outpatient services in the public hospital district’s 2020 budget.

Controller Jennifer Reed said she’d also challenged departments to each decrease spending by nearly 3 percent to put the district back in the black. At the end of November, the organization had a loss of more than $111,000 for the year, Reed reported to the hospital commissioners Monday morning.

The loss wasn’t as much as had been reported in the past because WhidbeyHealth recently received an approximately $4 million cost reimbursement from the federal government for being a critical access hospital.

The $110.4 million budget for 2020 was unanimously approved by hospital commissioners Monday.

To create the volume projections, Reed and Chief Operations Officer Colleen Clark met with managers to determine “realistic” volumes based on historical data and market trends, said CEO Ron Telles.

The hiring and recruitment of new surgeons are what hospital leaders hope will drive the increase in outpatient surgeries, he said.

WhidbeyHealth is also in the process of adding primary care providers and providers at its Women’s Health Clinic in Coupeville. Telles said the nationwide health care trend is toward more outpatient activity.

The budget assumes 8 percent increases over last year for both outpatient surgery procedures and specialty clinic visits.

Telles said increased Navy presence is the reason for an anticipated 10 percent growth in utilization of the nursery.

The number of days patients spend in the hospital has been dropping significantly over the last few years, which has decreased revenue.

November and December’s number of patient days fell well below the four-year average for those months.

The recruitment and retention of staff is identified as a challenge heading into this year, Reed said.

There are a number of positions open, although several of the positions have recently been filled or have offers out, Clark said at the meeting.

To lower costs, Reed said the budget relies on minimal use of temporary staffing and consultants.

She projects a total revenue of about $111.4 million this year, less than the $111.9 in revenue made in 2019. With cost reductions, the number of days cash on hand for operating expenses is expected to grow to 36.

The hospital district currently has around 18 days on hand, according to the November financial report.

This number dropped as low as eight last year.

Telles told commissioners he is also optimistic WhidbeyHealth will be granted a low-interest loan from the federal Department of Agriculture’s Rural Health program to finance infrastructure upgrades to the original hospital building and pay for cost overruns on the new wing.

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