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June 19, 2014 7:42 am

PVHC aims to turn finances around

Written by Ilene Olson

Rate hikes made; employees volunteering to take furloughs  

In an effort to reverse a serious downward financial trend, the Powell Valley Healthcare Board directed PVHC Chief Executive Officer Bill Patten to find ways to reduce spending or increase revenue by a combined total of $2 million for the coming fiscal year.

Patten and his administration already have begun that process, and the board’s directive was a response to his previous request for a specific target number.

Patten reported during a special meeting Monday that Powell Valley Healthcare had 38 days cash on hand at the end of May, down from 40.6 on April 30.

During a special board meeting on May 28, the board voted to increase rates at Powell Valley Care Center and The Heartland by 5 percent, and rates for all services at the hospital and Powell Valley Clinic by 10 percent. The increases took effect June 1.

Those increases will bring in an estimated $88,000 to $110,000 per month, he said.

Patten told the board that physicians have returned to their traditional model of caring for their own patients at the hospital in addition to seeing patients in the clinic.

For about a year, primary care providers had rotated so one could serve as a hospitalist — a doctor who cares for patients in the hospital — each week. For the week each doctor served as a hospitalist, he or she had no duties in the clinic.

That had been considered a temporary arrangement while the organization worked to recruit two hospitalists to take over the job. But that recruitment has been difficult, and taking a physician out of the clinic each week resulted in a decline in the number of patients seen there, making it more difficult for patients to get appointments at the clinic.

While changing back to the original care model will help both problems, its effect won’t be seen immediately due to summer vacations, Patten told the board.

Patten said he is negotiating new contracts with the primary care doctors.

“The new contracts are designed to provide fair and competitive compensation while incenting the doctors to see more patients,” he said.

The proposed change would not be unusual; in fact, it is “very typical” of medical providers’ contracts, he said.

In addition, Patten has asked employees who are willing to voluntarily take some days off without pay over the next four months, provided their supervisors agreed.

Patten reported Monday that many employees responded and did so willingly and generously. The days they volunteered to take off without pay will save the organization a total of just over $122,000, he said.

Those offers came from employees at every level, he said.

“I was amazed and so appreciative of my employees being willing to step up in our time of need and voluntarily give up such a big number,” Patten said Monday. “I know that financially things are tight, and it just warmed my heart to see that outpouring of support.”

Patten said the four-month time period will get the organization through the summer months, which typically are slower months at the clinic and hospital. It also will give time for effects of the elimination of the hospitalist rotation to kick in.

An effort also is underway to encourage visiting physicians — doctors based in other locations who see patients at Powell Valley Clinic on a regular basis — to perform needed surgeries and other procedures on those patients at Powell Valley Hospital instead of sending them elsewhere.

Patten said he believes those and other changes in the works could prevent the need to make any employee layoffs.

“With the target number they’ve given us, and with different options we’ve already identified, we’re really going to try and not have to do any layoffs,” he said. “We may have to do some position readjustments, move people from job one to job two,” but he hopes that is as far as it will have to go.

“They have already reduced by $122,000 voluntarily,” Patten said.

While most employees are supportive, “people are very jittery,” he said.

“During some employee meetings, employees have said, ‘We’ve been through this before; we’ll get though it this time.’ Others have wondered, ‘Do I need to start looking for a job somewhere else?’

“What I’ve told people is, ‘I need you to stick with us.”’

2 comments

  • Comment Link June 20, 2014 8:40 am posted by DYF

    I wonder if the physicians are "...being willing to step up in our time of need and voluntarily give up such a big number,”
    We need the hospital, just as much as they need us. However, how is this happening if you cannot even get in to see a doctor? I was told most if not all are not taking any new patients.

  • Comment Link June 26, 2014 11:12 am posted by Greg

    Like most CAH, Powell Valley Health Care needs to do things smarter. Technology is one of the areas they could do things smarter. Are they getting the most out of there new health information system? Do they have the education and training to maximize the application software tools?

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