Sound Off: Working to strengthen WhidbeyHealth’s financial position

  • Friday, March 26, 2021 1:30pm
  • Opinion

The declaration of a global pandemic was made just over a year ago. Since then, WhidbeyHealth providers and staff have found ways to sustain core medical services like primary care and cancer care while fighting for the lives of everyone on the island.

In the face of that threat, continuous innovation like telemedicine has enabled us to deliver on our mission with only a few interruptions.

The financial impact on our health system cannot be overstated. As of January, unexpected costs to respond to COVID-19 exceeded $3 million. At the same time, lockdown measures and temporary service closures reduced revenue by $12 million.

Our community is not alone. America’s hospitals of every size face the same unprecedented, massive cost increases and revenue losses. Tragically, some hospitals have ceased to operate in small communities like Yakima, as well as in many large cities.

We are striving to strengthen WhidbeyHealth’s financial position so that we are more resilient in these and future extraordinary times. Unfortunately, we have faced the difficult decision to reduce our workforce in some areas, which I can assure you was not taken lightly.

Cost containment is paramount, but we cannot “cost-cut” our way to fiscal health. Our finance team is working aggressively to secure every dollar of FEMA benefits available, though that will be a fraction of COVID-related losses.

Negotiations are ongoing with insurance companies to improve reimbursement rates, reduce their denials for patient benefits and accelerate payment for services.

Sadly, insurance for some of our active duty and retired military heroes represents the lowest rates of reimbursement. We are advocating for change through our elected federal officials.

Service innovations like our walk-in clinics improve patient access to care, while reducing insurance denials for Emergency Department visits deemed to be “unnecessary.” This is a win-win for everyone.

Thanks in part to your support of WhidbeyHealth Foundation, we are investing in specialty services like joint replacement surgeries which are sorely needed by our patients and are covered by most insurers.

The year 2020 marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of our hospital.

With the support of the community and the incredible effort of our team, our children and grandchildren will celebrate a centennial in 2070. We are here for the long run — focused on our mission of delivering exceptional health care by our exceptional providers.

From all of us at WhidbeyHealth: thank you for your continuing support.

Ron Telles is chief executive officer for WhidbeyHealth.

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