St. Bernards' Revenue Climbs 8 Percent to $355 Million in 2013

St. Bernards' Revenue Climbs 8 Percent to $355 Million in 2013
“We’re in a dynamic industry with significant changes going on,” said Chris Barber, CEO of St. Bernards Healthcare.

St. Bernards Healthcare’s efforts to prepare for health care reform seem to be paying off.

“We’re pleased to report that we’ve seen an improvement in patient outcomes as well as we’ve lowered the cost of care for the consumer,” said Chris Barber, the president and CEO of St. Bernards in Jonesboro.

St. Bernards, which operates the 438-bed St. Bernards Medical Center and clinics in northeast Arkansas, saw its net revenue climb 8 percent to $354.6 million for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. It was good enough for No. 26 on Arkansas Business’ list of largest private companies ranked by revenue.

St. Bernards, though, still is navigating the new rules under health care reform.

“We’re in a dynamic industry with significant changes going on,” Barber said.

Hospitals across the country are facing the loss of billions of dollars due to lower reimbursements per patient. To help pay for the Affordable Care Act, the rate of growth in Medicare reimbursements slowed.

“Then we’ve had [the federal budget] sequestration that was laid on top of that,” Barber said. “We’ve been living in that environment for a few years now.”

He said the health system has missed out on $3 million because of sequestration, and the lower reimbursements have meant a total of $16 million in lost revenue.

However, the state’s adoption of the “private option” alternative to Medicaid expansion has helped. St. Bernards is projecting to receive about $8 million more in patient revenue this year than it did in fiscal 2013, Barber said. Under Arkansas’ program, the federal dollars earmarked for expanding Medicaid, an optional part of the Affordable Care Act, are instead being used to buy private health insurance for low-income workers.

To make up for the other lost revenue, though, St. Bernards has added services and plans to add more.

“Part of our mission is to give back to the community, [by] providing Christ-like care to this community through education, treatment and health services,” he said of the nonprofit company.

In addition to dealing with industrywide changes, St. Bernards also has to compete with NEA Baptist Health System of Jonesboro’s new medical campus, which features a 550,000-SF hospital that opened in January. NEA Baptist has said it spent $400 million on construction costs and furnishing the campus, which also includes 212,000 SF of clinic space and a 34,000-SF cancer center.

Barber didn’t sound too worried about the competition.

“We’ve had two hospitals in this community since the early 1970s,” he said. “We’ve been here 114 years. … Our community can support two acute-care facilities. We don’t see that changing.”

New Services

In 2013, St. Bernards broke ground on a $14.5 million complex for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and those who need more care than an assisted living facility can offer. Barber said he expects St. Bernards Villa, located on 28 acres just south of Jonesboro, to be completed by April 2015.

Thirty of the 75 beds will be for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Assisted-living residents will be able to choose from one- or two- bedroom apartments.

Barber said the unit for Alzheimer’s patients will be the only one of its kind in northeast Arkansas, and it’s needed. The number of patients with dementia is expected to grow to 100,000 people in Arkansas by 2020, up from 76,000 in 2010.

Jimmy Hudspeth Architect of West Memphis was the architect, and Nabholz Construction Services of Conway is the contractor on the project.

St. Bernards also added services in 2012 when it opened its six-bed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, which was a first for northeast Arkansas.

In the $1.5 million expansion of the NICU, St. Bernards works with Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Department of Pediatrics to treat infants who were born prematurely and underweight.

“We started out with six beds, and we quickly expanded to 12 beds just because the need was so great here in northeast Arkansas,” Barber said. “That means we can deliver low-weight babies here so individuals don’t have to travel outside the region.”

In January 2013, St. Bernards partnered with HealthSouth Corp. of Birmingham, Alabama, on inpatient rehabilitation services at HealthSouth’s 67-bed rehabilitation hospital in Jonesboro.

Barber said the partnership has “streamlined and enhanced the delivery of care for patients.”

St. Bernards also has focused on delivering care to patients in northeast Arkansas. It partnered with Arkansas Methodist Medical Center of Paragould in 2012 to build Paragould Medical Park, a $12 million project on 48 acres in Paragould.

The medical campus opened at the end of 2013 and features an approximately 60,000-SF building for clinical offices for a number of Paragould primary care physicians. The building also has lab services, imaging services and physical therapy and rehabilitative services. Patients from Greene County, northeast Arkansas and southeast Missouri are treated at the building.

Emphasis on Prevention

Under health care reform, hospitals and doctors will have to demonstrate lower costs while providing high-quality care, which are key metrics for reimbursements.

Barber said that about six years ago St. Bernards began working with its doctors to improve patients’ health.

One of the key features of that effort was the opening of a 55,000-SF Health & Wellness Institute in 2011 in an effort “to get out in front of the whole effort of prevention, healthier lifestyle, healthier eating,” Barber said.

The institute has a fitness center and offers services for managing diabetes and other chronic diseases, Barber said.

In addition to improving patient care, St. Bernards is trying to keep a lid on costs.

Barber said he was pleased that a May 8, 2013, article in the The Wall Street Journal used data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to highlight the price differences between hospitals.

The article noted that the average price for a surgical spine fusion at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia was $219,273 in 2011 but only $15,524 at St. Bernards Medical Center.

“I think that’s important for folks to understand you’ve got a good steward of those resources here in this community,” Barber said. “And we want to continue to do that.”

St. Bernards Highlights

1900: St. Bernards Hospital, founded by the Olivetan Benedictine Sisters of Holy Angels Convent, treats its first patient in a six-room building on East Matthews Avenue.

1916: The first X-ray machine is installed.

1952: The construction of the east wing is completed, which gives the hospital 150 beds.

1964: A three-floor expansion of the east wing is finished. The hospital now has 274 beds. Construction on the Intensive Coronary Care addition is completed, and cobalt therapy, CT head scan and nuclear cardiology services are added.

1983: A cardiac catheterization laboratory opens.

1985: The St. Bernards Sleep Disorder Center opens.

1987: Balloon angioplasty is offered. The helicopter pad project is completed.

1999: The 70,000-SF Heartcare Center opens and has heart services and nuclear medicine in one location.

2002: In collaboration with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the Area Health Education Center-Northeast and the Donald W. Reynolds Center on Aging in Little Rock, St. Bernards opens the Center on Aging-Northeast.