Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bristol Hospital Made Money Last Year

Despite the truly lousy economy, Bristol Hospital, which has been in the red every years for too many years -- CFO Peter Freytag guessed seven years -- made money last year. Bravo to the hospital for doing the impossible. Their profit was less than $10,000, but I give them a lot of credit for turning the ship around and moving in the right direction. Here's what I wrote after the annual meeting:

BRISTOL -- For the first time in years, Bristol Hospital ended its fiscal year in the black.

Especially given the dire economy, the hospital’s overall profit of about $8,000 “was a substantial improvement for the organization,” said Peter Freytag, the hospital’s chief financial officer.

Freytag called the accomplishment a “direct result of how everybody’s worked” to control costs.

The hospital’s chief numbers cruncher didn’t speak at the annual meeting Thursday, but President Kurt Barwis and Cary Dupont, who gave the auditor’s report, praised Freytag’s work in front of the audience of about 200 at the Clarion.

Mark Blum, who chairs the hospital’s finance committee, said the organization’s fiscal condition is steadily improving, despite the challenging economy. The hospital grew revenues from patient services by 5 percent and controlled expenses, Blum said, by staffing according to volume and reducing overtime.

The hospital also cut in half the losses from operations and reduced its bad debt, according to Blum.

“It was a very difficult year,” said Barwis, with unemployment rising and many more people without insurance. Still, the hospital did what it said it would, said Barwis.

“We actually made budget,” said Barwis.

The first quarter of the hospital’s last fiscal year, which started in October 2008, was strong, said Freytag.

“The bottom literally dropped out in January,” he said.

Freytag said he’s not expecting a banner year this time, with the hospital already behind. He said the census at Bristol Hospital is down, mirroring hospitals all around the state.

“It has the makings of another difficult year for us,” said Freytag.

Barwis, who spent a lot of time last year fighting a potentially devastating plan for a new University of Connecticut hospital in Farmington, made a point of thanking Bristol’s state lawmakers.

“Our local delegation has worked hard for us,” said Barwis. “They rallied support around our concerns.”

Barwis noted the public fight the hospital had with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield over reimbursement rates. That battle still goes on, though less publicly, and Barwis reminded audience members that the hospital still accepts Anthem insurance.

Barwis said businesses can’t take on more health care costs.

“Employers can’t pay any more and the costs just keep going up,” said Barwis. He said it’s getting to the point where hospitals may not be able to provide their workers coverage for all the services they provide.

Medicare payments to hospitals will be reduced, said Barwis, who said change is already here.

“On the ground, each and every day, health care reform is happening,” said Barwis.

The hospital’s response, said Barwis, is to provide efficient, quality care, keeping it on a path to success no matter what health care reforms take place.

Tom Barnes, who chairs the hospital’s governance committee, urged everyone to do what they can to support the hospital.

“The hospital really is in my mind the most important asset we have in our community,” said Barnes.


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