WINNSBORO — Leaders from Fairfield Memorial Hospital met Monday night with Fairfield County Council and outlined goals to help the rural hospital gradually increase its fiscal health and expand its services.
Changes to health care from Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, and Gov. Nikki Haley’s pledge not to accept federal funding for South Carolina that would help struggling rural hospitals are two things keeping the hospital planners working in damage control mode.
While things are better now than a year ago when it took a large infusion of cash from the county to keep the hospital afloat, times remain tenuous at FMH.
CFO Tim Mitchell said FMH has about $50,000 cash on hand this year, down from $300,000 in 2012.
Thanks to a staffwide emphasis on efficiency and feasibility, operating costs remain level, but should a major piece of equipment break or a roof leak, FMH would find itself asking county council for funds once more.
With that in mind, leaders are thankful for the supportive relationship they have with council, yet are determined to make the hospital as self reliant as possible.
FMH requested several much needed items from county council:
• Funds for renovations to the operating room’s roof. FMH noted that at present the true cost of roof renovations is unknown.
• FMH will transition to new computer systems in September/October and during that transition FMH is requesting a $500,000 line of credit be available through the county. Credit charges would be repaid by FMH.
• Adding another physician to Blue Granite Medical Center is another top goal, recommended to FMH from recent assessments. A $75,000 start up fund is needed to have the area ready to recruit a new physician.
• Renovation of the Emergency Department. Although some see the lobby as the gateway to FMH for many patients, the first impression they get comes from treatment in the emergency room. Currently the ER is one open room. Renovations could provide more patient privacy as well as aesthetic improvements.
County Council Chairman David Ferguson asked FMH to get with County Administrator Phil Hinely and make those requests. He said they would be taken into consideration and later voted on by county council.
Though the hospital aspires to be self-supporting, it is fighting an uphill battle to get there. Though Mitchell reported slightly higher revenue in 2012 than in 2011, a decline in group policy-insured patients and a 6 percent increase in self pay patients is a troubling trend for FMH.
More burden would fall to a self pay group that is less able to pay bills due to a 4 percent decline in self pay patients who receive Medicare.
With 20 percent of FMH gross revenue coming from inpatient procedures and 80 percent from outpatient procedures, Mitchell said that trend poses an unfavorable mix because patients with group insurance have the highest rate of pay.
Compared to this time a year ago FMH is collecting $.38 from each dollar billed instead of $.44.
Of each dollar 25 percent goes to offset bad debt and 35 percent is taken up as write-offs from physicians. Mitchell said that operating costs remain level, however thanks to diligence from hospital staff.
Hospital CEO Mike Williams said the hospital is actively trying to engage the Lake Wateree market to expand its patient base and thereby generate more revenue.
When looking to the future, he and his colleagues were more favorable toward President Obama’s health care plan than that of Haley, reasoning that her plan relies too much on Disproportionate Share Hospital funds, funds county council said that people they spoke with on a recent trip to Washington D.C. told them would be decreasing significantly.
The FMH foundation reported gains. In 2012 it put $26,000 back into the hospital and all total the organization has generated $60,000 for FMH since the foundation began in 2010. The funds helped equip a new mammogram area and paid for two new vital signs monitors.
In other business, Williams eased employee concerns about state retirement and state insurance, noting both are current at this time for FMH. He credited the $1.2 million the county gave the hospital a year ago as a reason why the funds were there to keep the employee benefits in place.
For the time being, the goal is for the hospital to endure until, its leaders hope, that federal funding helps it overcome some of the financial issues that plague it as they do eight other rural hospitals in this state.