Hospital leadership updates, interacts with public at Town Hall meeting

Published 4:23 pm Friday, July 12, 2019

Bainbridge Memorial Hospital and Manor hosted a Town Hall Meeting at the Kirbo Center on Thursday to address continuing areas of improvement as well as short and long term problems that hospital leadership will work toward fixing.

Open to the community, the meeting united the Hospital Authority, the Bainbridge City Council, the Decatur County Board of Commissioners, members of the Industrial Development Authority and concerned residents who were interested in the future of the hospital and addressing the perception is has in the community.

Areas such as emergency department visits, inpatient surgery and same day surgery have seen downward trend since 2015, while endoscopy and outpatient visits have gone up. Admissions at Memorial Hospital and Manor have gone down 14.9 percent.

“Some of that is people leaving the community for the care,” said CEO Jim Lambert. “So we need to turn that around and drive the care to Memorial Hospital for the services we provide, if we can.”

Gaining residents’ confidence was a key part in that, Lambert added.

Memorial Hospital and Manor’s economic impact on the community is $50-55 million through the salaries of its employees between FY07-FY19. Debt for the hospital displays a negative trend from $3 million to 2011 to $9 million in 2018. The hospitals charity and indigent has gone from about $2.4 to $4 million over the same time frame.

“One of the big things in hospitals in Atlanta is them getting in trouble because people are challenging their tax exempt status,” said Lambert. “Because they don’t do enough charity. In rural healthcare, that’s not a problem. We do plenty of charity and indigent care. We appreciate the support we get from the county and city with the indigent care funds to help offset some of those costs.”

That is a challenge, however, when bad debt continues to grow.

In an exercise, Lambert asked all in attendance to use their cellphone to text one word that came to mind when describing Memorial Hospital and Manor. The words, texted to a number that filtered them to Lambert’s computer, were displayed on a screen.

Struggling, improving, old, slow, and dinky were some of the words displayed. Similar exercises were done with areas the hospital is good at (surgery, staff) and areas it could improve in (billing, cleanliness).

Billing and collections is an area the hospital is constantly improving on, said Lambert, and areas like cleanliness and attitude will be addressed moving forward. Battling perceptions of the hospital seen by the community, whether fair or unfair, is a constant struggle for its leadership.

“What do you think the biggest perception is?” asked Lambert. “Cleanliness? We’re working on that. I think it’s fair that billing has been our Achilles heel. We have to work on that and gain the confidence of the community. Sometimes it’s the insurance company making mistakes, a lot of times it’s us making mistakes. We got to own that.”

The potential for more Town Hall Meetings was discussed, with future dates in the works.