While the “retooling” effort is still in process, hospital administrators state that the preliminary results are positive.
The health district had positive cash flow in the month of July, which is typically the slowest month of the year and a month with negative cash flow. In addition, the number of patient days in August, 2010 were more than twice the number in August, 2009.
The hope is that after suffering through the always-slow summer months, the hospital can recoup some of the loss through the end of the year.
San Juan Hospital reported a significant drop in business during the summer of 2009, driven primarily by the June, 2009 death of Dr. Jim Redd.
“Dr. Redd generated a tremendous amount of revenue to the hospital,” said Hospital CEO Phil Lowe, “and it has taken a year for us to recover financially from his loss.”
In addition, Blue Mountain Hospital opened its doors in July, 2009, in the process taking a large patient base with it.
“We told the Commissioners that the new hospital would impact our business by up to 55 percent and that is what happened,” said Lowe.
The health service district, which operates San Juan Hospital and several clinics, has restructured its operations and spent several million dollars in the past year to complete a number of projects.
The projects include building a new surgical suite at the hospital, hiring a full-time surgeon, decreasing staffing, building a new clinic in Monticello and increasing out-reach efforts to neighboring communities, including Dove Creek, CO, La Sal and Spanish Valley.
Knowing the new hospital was set to open its doors, the health district completed a strategic plan to determine the correct direction to move.
Using a goal of working to provide the highest quality health care, the health district has made significant progress on a number of fronts, including:
• A new surgical suite doubled the capacity of the operating rooms at San Juan Hospital. The new surgical suite opened in May, 2010.
Lowe reports that the number of surgical procedures has increased since the construction was complete. The expansion was funded primarily through grants and loans from the Utah Community Impact Board (CIB).
• Dr. Kris Hayes has joined the staff at San Juan Hospital as a fulltime dedicated surgeon. Hayes also completes surgical procedures at Blue Mountain Hospital, at no cost to the hospital in Blanding.
“As part of our attempts to collaborate with the new hospital, Dr. Hayes is on their staff, at no cost to Blue Mountain Hospital,” said Lowe.
The arrangement was designed to allow Blue Mountain Hospital to bill for hospital services and San Juan Hospital to bill for Dr. Hayes’ services.
However, Lowe reports that the district has been unable to work through the billing process with Blue Mountain Hospital and have absorbed the cost of Dr. Hayes’ services.
• San Juan County paid for a new roof on the hospital, valued at approximately $200,000. Lowe states that the building is owned by the county and the decision to fund the project was made by the County Commission.
• Funding for a new clinic adjacent to San Juan Hospital has been secured, again primarily through the CIB. Construction is set to begin soon on the clinic. San Juan Hospital has housed the clinic in Monticello for a number of years.
• The staff has been cut by twelve full time employees. There was not a staffing cutback through a reduction in force, but the reduction was primarily through attrition, including employees who left the hospital to work at the new facility in Blanding.
• Outreach efforts have resulted in a significant increase in business from surrounding communities. “Our efforts in Dove Creek have been very successful,” reports Lowe, “and we are hopeful about the new clinic in Spanish Valley.”
The new clinic in Spanish Valley opened on September 8 and is staffed by employees of San Juan Health District.
In addition to the major projects, the hospital has expanded services in other areas, including the laboratory and stroke treatment programs.
While the majority of the retooling process was paid via grants, the district has added approximately $1.7 million in new debt. Prior to the process, the health district carried a negligible amount of long-term debt.
A committee has met several times to discuss cooperation between the competing health systems. The committee includes San Juan County Commissioners and the boards of both hospitals. Lowe reports that the committee has met twice, and is scheduled to meet again in January, 2011.