By Jay Nolan
“The bad bleeding is behind us. We are not in a panic anymore.” That’s how Knox Hospital consultant Greg Britt summed up the Knox Hospital’s financial situation during a presentation to the board at Monday’s meeting.
Britt made those comments during a nearly two-hour session, after board members had extensively reviewed details of the hospital’s financial situation. “Our next cost report should be favorable and comparable to this year.” Britt added.
Several factors, such as government program reimbursement calculations, complicated federal billing procedures, multiple revenue sources and highly regulated cost reimbursement make tracking hospital finances a very complex process. But, overall, Britt and several board members feel the indicators for the facility are turning more positive.
The hospital reported profits of $290,327 in October, and $158,211 in November before posting a $133,531 loss in December, making the last quarter positive overall.
“They (Federal government) pay us this year for last year’s cost. So, by the time we get our 2016 year rates, we should be cash flow positive,” Britt told the board.
While agreeing with Britt overall, board member Tom Odell Smith noted, “We are probably another year away from being comfortable and financially solid in our day-to-day operations. We have to operate in a 2016 pattern as we do 2015 work.” Smith said.
Smith and hospital administrator Ray Canady also gave much credit for the improved financial position to the professional staff at the hospital.
“The employees are doing their part to help keep the hospital open, and they could have easily gone the other way,” Smith noted. “We have some great people,” Canady added.
Reports to the board show the hospital has paid a large chunk of the inherited amount they owed to Medicare when they took over the bankrupt facility. Payments made have reduced that debt by nearly $750,000.
Unfortunately, the board also got some bad news. The state Office of Inspector General (OIG) is holding up the facility’s MRI certificate. OIG is requiring an 18-foot long canopy first be erected at the outside entrance to the MRI department. Board members discussed options, and the group agreed to have board member Mark Moran assist Canady in addressing the canopy issue.
The board also had a long discussion about the hospital Emergency Room. Member Derrick Poff mentioned how important that department is on the community’s perception of the entire hospital.
“We are getting better,” Poff told the board, “but we have to stay on top of our ER service levels.” He summarized the discussion by saying he believes, “Communications with the patient is key.”
Canady assured the board he agrees with their concerns, saying, “We personally work on this (ER department) all the time.” Over 1,300 patients visited the ER during December alone.
In closing, the board approved the most recent committee report and recommendations from the Medical staff. It also formally approved purchase of some equipment needed to replace critical system or machines that had broken down between board meetings, and heard a positive report about some new medical doctors that are considering working with or for the hospital. After a brief executive session to discuss possible contract agreements, the board took no action. The group set the next board meeting date for Monday, March 2.