University, GHSU holding their own, but dramatic cuts loom

Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012 8:05 PM
Last updated Thursday, July 11, 2013 2:09 PM
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The number of patients is fluctuating in some areas at Augusta’s two public hospitals, which are still holding their own financially. Looming overhead, however, are drastic federal cuts that could take $20 million to $25 million from each.

On Thursday, the board for University Hospital and the boards overseeing the health system for Georgia Health Sciences University convened in separate meetings.

At University, admissions, surgeries and cardiovascular interventions were below budget in September but births and visits to the Emergency Department were up, Chief Financial Officer Dave Belkoski said.

“September was a very busy month” for the emergency room, he said. Revenue was $13 million ahead of budget and was offset somewhat by expenses being almost $10 million over budget. Still, the hospital is $4 million above its budget and $8 million over last year, when volumes dipped sharply, CEO Jim Davis said.

“We are doing very well financially in the hospital,” he said.

GHSU’s health system in the first quarter of its fiscal year made about a $1 million margin, well below the $7.1 million margin it had budgeted but better than the nearly $4 million deficit at that point last fiscal year.

“We’re doing better than last year but not as well as we expected,” said GHSU President Ricardo Azziz, who leads the boards and is the CEO of the health system.

Admissions to the hospital, surgeries and outpatient clinic visits are all below budget, although some are ahead of the previous year. In fact, compared with last year, “it’s a much better picture,” said David Hefner, the executive vice president for clinical affairs.

That picture gets cloudy for both University and GHSU, however, when looming federal cuts are considered, officials said. That includes $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts, half from the Department of Defense and half from domestic programs, that would kick in as the result of Congress’ failure to reach a debt-reduction deal. Big cuts in Medicare and Medicare payments that support graduate medical education, a 31 percent reduction in Medicare payments to physicians, and a hit to research funding through the National Institutes of Health could mean as much as $20 million less to GHSU, its physicians and its health system, Azziz said. It could also mean the loss of up to 3,500 jobs at Fort Gordon and an unknown impact on Savannah River Site, he said.

“Either one are going to have a major impact on us,” Azziz said. That is, unless Congress acts to put them off, which is what some federal and state officials seem to be expecting, Hefner said.

“They don’t think it is going to happen,” he said. “It would be pretty dramatic. We’d have to have a lot of layoffs ourselves, and probably the whole region and the whole state. It would send us probably back into a recession.”

The effect of those cuts on University is less certain, although the 2 percent cut in Medicare funding would cost the hospital about $5 million a year, Davis said.

“What hits us much harder is the Affordable Care Act in general, which has about a $25 million impact,” he said. Those numbers take into account revenue from an expansion of Medicaid that Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has already said he would not do.

“That’s not going to happen,” Davis said.

DOCTOR GETS AWARD

A recently retired official at Georgia Health Sciences University is the first physician in Georgia to win a top honor from the group that represents U.S. medical schools, the group announced Thursday evening.

Dr. Ruth-Marie Fincher is the first Georgian and first female physician to win the Abraham Flexner Award for Distinguished Service to Medical Education from the Association of American Medical Colleges. Fincher retired in May as vice dean of academic affairs at GHSU, and the association cites her three decades of leadership in guiding students and creating development opportunities in medical education for the faculty. Nationally, she helped found two groups that promoted better clinical education, the association said in a news release announcing the award.

“That’s an extraordinary honor,” GHSU President Ricardo Azziz said.

– Tom Corwin, staff writer

Comments (6) Add comment
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Common.sense
465
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Common.sense 10/25/12 - 11:58 pm
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I didn't read the article

I didn't read the article properly and retract what I said.

soapy_725
43963
Points
soapy_725 10/26/12 - 06:39 am
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At some point last year
Unpublished

a director of UH said they needed more surgeries and followup surgeries. What did that mean? Actively promoting surgeries? And endeavoring to have more followup surgeries? Or was it just bottom line profit management. "We need to sell more of our products".

Are not hospitals in place to meet the needs of the sick when they are sick? Now they are in place to sell hospital visits?

Births and ER visits are up. Wonder why these two categories? Are our hospitals recruiting patients? Are they building more facilities and increasing their overhead and debt ceiling?

soapy_725
43963
Points
soapy_725 10/26/12 - 06:49 am
0
0
Maybe we need a "save the hospitals"
Unpublished

campaign. We could raise money for the hospitals. No, wait we just did that when we paid our "boated bill". A bill that Medicare viewed as bloated by 800%. Who is mismanaging what? The medical profession blames the government and government blames the medical profession.

Both are to blame for mismanagement of a basic necessity for PROFIT.

Offices and hospitals that are not functional but are Cathedrals. Over staffed and under used in a lot of cases. But they continue to build more Cathedrals and require more staffing and more overhead. And all the while accumulating more PROPERTY.

Maybe the government has shared its "plans" with the medical community and organized religion.

Build more building. Build grandiose buildings. Incur more debt. Demand more money. The total focus becomes money.

MarinerMan
2107
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MarinerMan 10/26/12 - 07:33 am
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0
And Another Thing...
Unpublished

And lest us not forget the "Hospital Tax" that hits University, but MCG has been exempted. This is an occupancy tax that the State enacted to shore up some of its revenues.

Riverman1
90727
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Riverman1 10/26/12 - 09:01 am
1
0
Cut the salaries of physicians

Cut the salaries of physicians employed by the hospital. That's the only way to make-up for the loss.

Fiat_Lux
16246
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Fiat_Lux 10/26/12 - 10:58 am
0
1
Unfortunately, Riverman, that won't happen...

...because the money comes from different pots. PPG pays MCG physicians over and above the state base pay level. The state alone pays staff and all the other expenses that aren't covered by grants, such as from the NIH.

So all you bright lights planning on voting for Obamessiah, kindly remember your choice when your primary care provider--you know, the emergency room--has you hanging out in the waiting room with dozens of other sick and wounded for up to 24 hours before you are seen by a PA.

You're not going to like health care in the United States over the next few decades if the Unaffordable Oburyus Health NonCare Act gets fully implemented. The entitlements are certainly going away if that happens, and back we will go to a distant past when poor people simply died from treatable health issues.

Grace422
239
Points
Grace422 10/26/12 - 12:40 pm
0
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Anyone ever seen an itemized hospital bill?

Well I have and based on the prices they charge us they over pay for everyday items such as $10.00 for Q-Tips, $20.00 for a box of band aids. What the heck I buy these same items for my home and would never consider paying such high prices. I also as thought when you buy in bulk you get a cheaper price. Unless the hospital add thier own mark up on price for these items.. WE NEED SOME TYPE OF HEALTH CARE REFORM!!!!

Riverman1
90727
Points
Riverman1 10/26/12 - 12:45 pm
2
0
Fiat Lux, I was speaking more

Fiat Lux, I completely agree with you abou Obama care, but I was speaking more about University Hosp when I said cut physician salaries.

ARC fan
187
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ARC fan 10/26/12 - 03:53 pm
0
0
Itemized bills

Don't put too much stock in itemized bills. Hospitals these days are usually reimbursed pre-established rates. Doesn't matter if your bill is $5,000 or $100,000, your diagnosis/procedure is what determines the amount the insurance company or Medicare/Medicaid pays the hospital. The hospital then writes off most of the balance. Very few contracts use charges as a basis for reimburement.

Those without insurance are automatically given a 50% discount as of last October.

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