White River Health System Preps ER for Health Care Reform

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, May. 20, 2013 12:00 am  

Gary Bebow, CEO of White River Health System, says it’s unclear what impact the health care reform will have on the Batesville hospital.  (Photo by Mark Friedman)

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Bebow projects that after Jan. 1 more people will go to a doctor because they will have insurance. But he thinks there won’t be enough primary care physicians to see the newly insured, so those patients will turn to emergency rooms for treatment. That could be a problem for White River Health System.

The last time the hospital, which opened in 1976, expanded its emergency room was around 1995. At the time, the hospital was seeing about 12,000 patients a year. The expansion increased the capacity to 20,000 patients a year, but the hospital quickly outgrew that, he said.

Making matters worse, patients who were rushed to the emergency room shared the same waiting room as patients who were at the hospital for scheduled procedures.

To add room, the hospital in June 2011 started a $35 million expansion and renovation project, which attached a 35,000-SF, four-story patient tower to the building.

The project also expanded the cafeteria, gift shop and pharmacy and separated the emergency room patients from the others in the hospital.

In addition, the hospital added 60 patient rooms, giving it about 245 beds now.

The added space hasn’t helped the hospital’s bottom line, though. Its net income has dropped from $7.4 million for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2011, to $2.4 million a year later.

“Last year we found we had a lot more people who didn’t have the ability to pay, so we had more bad debts and charity care and write-offs from insurance companies,” Bebow said.

Low Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements also have eaten into the net income because they don’t cover the actual cost of some procedures. About 57 percent of the patients at WRMC are on Medicare, “which is high,” Bebow said. Around 40 percent is considered average, he said. But the number of Medicaid patients is only about 10 percent.

The hospital also saw a drop in its inpatient admissions, which fuels its income, he said. The admissions fell from 9,000 to 8,400 between the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years.

For the first six months of the current fiscal year, inpatient admissions were 4,400, which is on par with the 2011 figures, he said.



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