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"Red" budget approved

POSTED: July 2, 2014 10:01 a.m.

The Ellsworth County Medical Center board of directors have done something they’ve never done before — approved a 2014-15 bottom-line budget that is $87,965.07 in the red.
“What we’ve learned in this budget process is that we cannot continue to run this organization the same way we have,” Preston Sauers, director of financial operations, said Monday.
Sauers added, however, the hospital’s management team believes it has the tools, people and resources to overcome the budget numbers.
“I would have loved for it to be in the black, and I would have liked the audited numbers at the end of June to finish that way when the auditors completed,” Roger Masse, chief executive officer, said.
Looking at the balance sheet from 2009 to 2013, Masse said the net positive to the hospital’s bottom line after consideration of non-operating revenue was $313,000 in the black.
“This year, I can’t project where it’s going to wind up come November when we get the audit report,” he said. “But in essence I would suspect we are getting close to looking at an average of six years where the bottom line basically is virtually unaffected in total. But the trend line continues to be a bit troubling as it relates to revenue.”
Sauers said the biggest challenge facing the hospital is revenue. Moreover, Sauers said his biggest challenge in figuring next year’s budget are the unknowns that accompany Dr. Katie (Moore) McWilliams as she begins her practice in August.
“We’ve had the same providers for all of these years, and I’ve budgeted based of off all of these providers for all of these years, as have all of my predecessors,” he said. “Our last major change was when Dr. Slomka came. I don’t know how they thought through how they were going to budget when they didn’t have any idea what was going to happen.”
Sauers said it will take time for Dr. McWilliams to build her practice.
“I believe she will build a very booming practice,” he said. “I believe she also has the potential to grow our market share — to bring  some people to the hospital that maybe haven’t been coming here.”
In this time of transition, Sauers said he knew going into the budget that bringing a new provider onboard was going to cost hospital money to do so. He also knew that Dr. Whitmer would, at some point, begin to slow down his practice — something he has yet to do.
“We don’t know what his decision will be going forward,” Sauers said.
Sauers said the hospital’s 340B drug discount program remains vital to balancing the budget and maintaining certain programs. He said there are many factors that could significantly change the program, including regulatory changes that limit or change who is eligible to participate in the program.
“We also must closely monitor the potential added retail pharmacy in a Walmart Express,” Sauers said. “Decisions to contract with Walmart will be carefully considered.”
 “Hopefully as Dr. McWilliams ramps up and Dr. Whitmer makes his decisions, there’s a balancing of volumes, and the net becomes one that is a bit to the positive rather than the other way around,” Masse said.
“We need to identify other revenue sources such as telemedicine, and be proactive rather than reactive,” Sauers said. “We need to be prepared to have discussion with other facilities and other systems that may be able to help us maintain and strengthen our operation.”
In other business:
• Because of recent thefts of televisions in the hospital’s lobby and emergency room waiting area, Shamarie Farthing, risk, safety and quality manager, said she has purchased eight new digital surveillance cameras. Bids for installation of the cameras are being obtained.
• A recommendation by Farthing to lock the hospital’s doors at 8 p.m. rather than 10 p.m. was approved. After 8 p.m. visitors must ring a buzzer at the entrance and be identified to gain access to the hospital. Farthing said there is nothing more important to the hospital than the safety of its staff, patients and visitors. She felt the added measures were necessary to help provide that security.
• Masse said the hospital is awaiting final action on its arrangement with Central Kansas Mental Health Center of Salina to begin onsite coverage at the hospital two days a week.
• With regard to the Walmart Express that is coming to Ellsworth, Masse said there is no current knowledge Walmart is planning clinic type service.
“We have met with both independent pharmacies with whom we currently participate with for the 340B program (Seitz Drug and F&M Drug),” he said. “We have assured them of our intent to retain all current contract provisions.”
Masse said he told officials from the two pharmacies that discussion with Walmart representatives regarding potential negotiations may be essential to sustain the current participation levels.
“They seem to understand,” he said.
The next meeting of the Ellsworth County Medical Center board of directors is at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 16,  in the hospital conference room.

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