Glennie Bench addresses Rotary Club on the state of Memorial Hospital

Published 6:12 pm Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Addressing “The State of our Hospital,” was the topic of the program at Rotary on Tuesday.  Delivered by Memorial Hospital and Manor Authority Chairperson, Glennie Bench, she began by explaining “Where we’ve been.”

During the years from 2012 to 2014 the hospital always showed a net profit. Then in 2015 there was a loss of $4,834,000 and 2016 was even worse, reporting a loss of $6,347,000.

Bench outlined some of the factors that contributed to the problems were dealing with the Affordable Care Act and sequestration. “Our hospital and physicians receive less than what the costs are for patients with Medicare and Medicaid.” The hospital is also seeing cuts from sequestration and commercial insurance companies who have begun playing games about making payments. “You have to be on top of it,” explained Bench, who added, “That’s where we failed.” Bench claimed they discovered huge losses that came from bad debts that were never pursued.

She then described where the hospital stands now.

A strategy to turn things around began in 2016. The CFO was changed and Bench stated she believes they are now on track to turn things around. This fiscal year through December the hospital has seen a $60,000 net income after 9 months.

They have worked on the revenue cycle through admissions and billing claims, have reduced expenses and installed IT equipment upgrades, which were long overdue.

Bench said they are still looking at the expenses, seeing where they can make cuts and implementing the necessary IT equipment upgrades that had been put off too long. “Thanks to the county and city we are now able to get a bond to be used for upgrades of the building and capital improvements.

Bench’s closing remarks addressed where the hospital is going in 2017. They intend to continue the improvements from 2016, better manage the expenses, addressing the accounts payable and promoting the Rural Hospital Tax Credit – new legislature that allows Georgia taxpayers to use some of their state tax as a credit by donating the sum to the hospital.

The hospital will continue to monitor the expenses and services offered, seeing which ones are most profitable, especially identifying the key patient areas to gain the self-payers back to Memorial Hospital.

Comparing Memorial Hospital to some of the rural hospitals that have closed or been sold to other hospital organizations, Bench insisted the volumes have remained strong, while those that closed had declined. “We are stronger than the average rural hospital,” Most rural hospitals have a payer mix of 70 to 75 Percent Medicare/Medicaid patients. Ours is 65 to 57 percent.”

The hospital has maintained the 80 bed rate, with an occupancy rate of 33 percent, while services have transitioned to more out-patient services. “The majority of revenue comes from out-patient cases,” explained Bench, who said they must retain the rooms, but have transitioned some for other uses.

While she described it as being in a precarious position, she thinks it is moving in the right direction and is very optimistic about the next two years and the commitment of the staff.

Bench closed her remarks by saying “We can’t just survive. We can thrive based on strong community support. People want it to turn around.”