Veterans Memorial Hospital experiences January loss, sustains positive year-to-date

by Brianne Eilers

January proved to be a challenging month for Veterans Memorial Hospital (VMH) in Waukon, with the facility experiencing a loss of $60,530 for the month. Acute patient days for the month were down 8.7% and newborn deliveries were also down compared to last January. Outpatient physical therapy was down 10.7%, which VMH Administrator Mike Myers attributed in part to the fact that insurance companies are authorizing less therapy and procedures. Total surgeries, however, were up 7.2%, and cardiac rehab was up 24.9%.
Even with the loss in January, looking at year-to-date statistics, VMH is showing a net income of $296,235, which translates to a 3.1% profit margin. The number of days in accounts receivable has gone up to 102.3. "We are working to correct that with hiring extra help," Myers noted. He added that part of the reason that number has gone up is due to the fact that there is more coding involved with billing now, and the goal is to have that number down near 70 day again by this summer. VMH has also begun advertising for its Director of Nursing position, which will be filled by July 1.
The MRI machines that are parked outside VMH a few days a week will soon be covered with the VMH logo, and the VMH radiologists will receive training in providing MRI services. This will allow VMH to provide enhanced MRI services that will be done locally all week long.
Myers noted that the change in the hospital's emergency room using mid-level providers from Emergency Practice Associates during the weekday hours has been going "very well." He noted that the change is very helpful to the local physicians.

Myers also noted that he had been to Arizona to attend a conference on rural healthcare. One of the goals is to streamline operations of hospitals. Myers noted that part of the conference involved a panel on rural healthcare, but interestingly enough, three of the four panel members were from a major U.S. city.
Myers also attended a conference on Medicaid expansion in Iowa. He said that Iowa Governor Terry Branstad's plan is to turn the program into a more managed care type of program where minimal to no legislative approval is needed, which is intended to save money. The amount saved should be equal to what the State of Iowa would be paying out for the program once the 100% Federal financial support of the program stops.
Myers noted that part of the plan to save money is to provide better patient education. The example he gave was when it is appropriate to visit the emergency room versus a trip to a doctor's office. The concern is the best way to educate patients on changes in the program and ensure that all parties involved are held accountable. Myers further noted that with more people having access to health coverage, there will have to be a way to help manage their care, and patients will need to have incentive to learn where care is appropriate to receive. He noted that there is some concern for providers in the details of the plan.
VMH has received the results of its annual employee turnover-rate report. "We are still below the state average," Myers said. VMH had a nine percent turnover rate, which Myers pointed out would be six percent if one did not factor in retirements in 2014. The state average is between 11% and 15%. VMH has been consistent in staying below the state average over the past few years. Myers noted that in 2014 there were 19 positions filled by either replacing someone who left or adding a new position.
Myers also stated that VMH has been keeping its Charity Care below budget, which he says is reflective of more people having health insurance coverage. He noted that this is a statewide trend. "All in all, the hospital is doing well, and our Press Ganey scores also continue to look good," Myers said. "We will continue to move forward."