Lewis County hospital has another strong fiscal year in 2017

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LOWVILLE — Lewis County General Hospital had its fifth straight year in the black in 2017, with some unexpected revenues and a boost in outpatient services contributing to the surplus.

“It ended up being another positive year,” Chief Financial Officer Jeffery W. Hellinger said, noting the facility saw a pre-audit operating gain of $4.47 million last year.

A portion of the surplus stems from the receipt of $8.2 million in intergovernmental transfer payments, up from just over $7 million the previous year. Such payments are made by federal and county governments to reimburse health care facilities partially for losses incurred on Medicaid, uninsured and charity care patients.

The hospital projected only $5.25 million from that revenue source in its 2017, break-even budget.

A $1.1 million payment state safety net program for critical-access hospitals in December also gave a significant, late-year financial boost, he said.

However, the hospital’s “other revenue” category, which includes state grant funding, actually dropped from $11.2 million in 2016 to $8.2 million last year.

“We’re relying a lot less on that,” Mr. Hellinger said, noting that has been the goal.

Meanwhile, he said, net patient care revenue rose by well over $6 million, from $53.74 million to $60.03 million.

The county-owned hospital saw a drop in inpatient admissions from 1,269 to 1,153 and observation cases from 677 to 623.

However, outpatient services rose from 78,613 to 79,674, Hospice increased from 1,423 to 1,511 and certified home health aid saw a 27 percent increase from 6,916 to 8,786.

“That program is really doing well,” Mr. Hellinger said of the home health service.

Total operating revenues increased from $72.03 million in 2016 to $76.35 million last year.

And Mr. Hellinger said there should be room for improvement, as the hospital has been without 24-hour orthopedic service for the past year or so.

That is about to change, as a second orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Steven J. Kaplan, is slated to join the hospital staff in the coming week, and officials are also hoping to bring in a third surgeon to add to the rotation.

Bringing back round-the-clock orthopedic services should help boost both surgical and other ancillary services, Mr. Hellinger said.

“It’s a foundational service,” hospital CEO Gerald R. Cayer added. “There is a lot of spin-off from a strong orthopedic presence.”

Some of the surplus funds are being used for equipment and facility upgrades, including a $1.3 million roof replacement project that was completed last fall, Mr. Hellinger said.

A $1.6 million information system upgrade from Meditech 6.0 to 6.1 is also set to kick off early this year and be completed in March 2019.

While the hospital had to borrow money for a $3 million upgrade in 2013, officials said they plan to cover the cost this time from hospital operations, with $700,000 budgeted in 2018.

Hospital officials are also eyeing a $22 million project to construct an addition that would house a modern surgical center, a relocated adult day health care center and a new health and wellness center and revamp the intensive care unit and east wing.

They plan to seek $16 million from the state Department of Health’s transformation grant program and fund the balance with $5 million from operations and $1 million from a capital campaign, allowing them to undertake the project without borrowing any money.

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