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Healthcare System on the road to recovery

Posted 11/27/13 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

In spite of the McKenzie County Healthcare Systems posting a $311,596 loss during this past fiscal year, Dan Kelly, chief executive officer of the healthcare system, believes that better days are ahead.
“It is a formidable task to get a handle on the financial losses that the healthcare system has been seeing,” stated Kelly during the healthcare systems annual meeting on Monday, Nov. 18. “But we are working to reverse the trend.”
According to Kelly, the two biggest reasons that the healthcare system has seen an operating loss is because of bad debt and the professional costs associated with providing patient care.
“A federal law, the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA), is directly impacting our ability to collect payment for services that we perform in our emergency room,” stated Kelly. “A large number of individuals are presenting themselves to the emergency room, but we aren’t getting paid for the services that we perform.”
Under EMTALA requirements,  hospitals must perform initial assessments and stabilize patients regardless of the individual’s ability to pay.
During the past year, according to Kelly, McKenzie County Healthcare Systems saw its bad debt increase from $1,218,185 to $2,006,552 primarily as a result of unpaid bills associated with providing emergency room services that were never paid for. During the year, emergency room visits increased from 4,624 to 5,584.
The second factor that led to this year’s operating loss, according to Kelly, was the costs associated with providing physician coverage.
“We are experiencing higher than normal costs because we are being forced to hire traveling physicians to provide coverage in our emergency room,” stated Kelly. “We chose to staff the emergency room with physicians. And that decision comes with a cost.”
During the past year, the healthcare system saw its cost of providing professional care to patients increase from $8,007,613 to $8,903,3698.
But Kelly is hopeful that there is a light at the end of the tunnel financially, for the healthcare system.
“This is a pivotal year for McKenzie County Healthcare Systems,” stated Kelly. “We’re going to move into an era of financial growth.”
The key to the healthcare system turning the corner financially in the future, according to Kelly, is its ability to hire its own medical providers instead of relying on traveling physicians, as well as beginning construction on a new replacement facility.
“We have signed four new providers so far this year, and plan on hiring one additional physician, plus other staff this coming year,” stated Kelly. “Those new providers will help us control some of our costs.”
But for Kelly, the building of a new replacement hospital and clinic, as well as remodeling the existing nursing home will be the key to the healthcare system moving forward to meet the growing demand for improved medical care.
“The new facility will include 12 emergency room bays, as well as a 24-bed critical access hospital,” stated Kelly. “The clinic will include 30 exams rooms, plus outpatient surgery rooms.”
According to Kelly, the $55 million facility will include 104,000 square feet of new construction for the hospital and clinic, while 13,000 square feet of remodeling work will be done on the nursing home. The healthcare system is seeking a $12.5 million loan from the Bank of North Dakota, a $27 million loan from the USDA, while $15.5 million will be raised locally.
“We designed the new facility for maximum efficiency with the money being spent on patient care,” stated Kelly.
Patsy Levang, president of the board of the McKenzie County Healthcare Systems, is also emphatic on the need for a new replacement facility.
“I passionately believe in providing state-of-the-art healthcare to the residents of McKenzie County,” stated Levang. “This new facility will allow us to meet the growing needs of this area for years to come.”
Levang also credits the healthcare systems’ collaborative efforts with other area healthcare systems as being a key to the future.
“We are blessed to have developed relationships with Trinity Healthcare, ANOVA Family Health Clinic, Mayo Healthcare systems and Sanford Healthcare systems,” stated Levang. “In the coming days, these most strategic collaborations will make all the difference in our ability to deliver first-rate healthcare for the next 60 years.”