Veterans Memorial Hospital experiences second consecutive month of slower patient volumes, financial loss

by Brianne Eilers

For a second month in a row, Veterans Memorial  Hospital (VMH) in Waukon is reporting a loss for its net income. During the month of February, acute patient days volume was down 10%. For the month, deliveries were slightly down, by just one percent, but looking at year-to-date statistics, the number of births the hospital is seeing is right on track with where they were at this time last year. VMH administrator Mike Myers noted that last year was also a record year for births at VMH.
Another patient volume area that experienced a decrease was outpatient physical therapy, which was down 10.5%. Total surgeries were down for the month of February, but looking year-to-date, that number remains up 4.4%. There were several patient volume areas that experienced an increase, including skilled patient days, up 15.4%. Cardiac rehab was up 22.3% and emergency room visits were up 8.6%.
Despite those bright spots in patient statistics, the hospital still lost $51,908 for the month of February. Despite two losses in a row, the hospital still is maintaining a 2.3% profit margin. Myers also pointed out that the number of days in Accounts Receivable has come down to 83.7, down significantly from the 102.3 days in January.
In other matters, the MRI machine has been cleaned and upgraded. As soon as the frost is out of the ground and the threat of snow is gone, VMH will be putting the MRI machine on its permanent location. “Our techs are undergoing training to become certified,” Myers added.
VMH is participating in a study through Mayo Health Systems, which also includes the La Crosse and Tomah clinics and hospitals in Wisconsin, on water births. “There has always been a question about if water births are as safe as ‘land births,’ and in our experience, there has been no difference in any of the complications from land versus water,” Myers said. He further stated that this study is the first of its kind, of this magnitude, and that it is exciting for VMH to be a part of it. It will be done over a period of months to determine if there is a difference land birth and water birth. Myers also reiterated that VMH has not seen a difference.
The hospital is interviewing for a director of nursing this week, with the hopes to have a decision made by the following week. Myers has also met with some of the county supervisors regarding Mental Health Services, and how the hospital will handle those situations and where they can take those individuals. Myers said some of the solutions being looked into include sub-acute beds in hospitals and how to transport patients with mental health issues across state lines to receive treatment, rather than having to find a bed in the state of Iowa and having to transport patients to places six hours away.
Myers also updated on his trip to Washington D.C. to meet with legislators there. The House has passed a bill to permanently address the “doc fix”. The bill will now move to the Senate. Myers noted that the bill passed by a “huge margin” in the house. He also noted that legislators didn’t take away from Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) to pay for the bill. Myers said that it was “a big plus” to get this bill addressed, and that they are also watching bills regarding the 96-hour rule and physician supervision that Myers is hoping will gain support and make things better for rural health care.
Myers also noted that Medicare and Medicaid require hospitals meet certain meaningful use standards with electronic medical records. He reported that VMH has met both Medicare and Medicaid level 1 meaningful use, and the hospital will not be penalized for not meeting those standards with having funds taken away. The hospital is also working to finalize its operating budget, with a goal of a two percent profit margin. VMH is also working on getting its capital budget finalized in the next couple of months.