Stephens Co. Hospital Authority, County Commission Meet

Stephens County Hospital Administrator Ed Gambrell speaks Monday to hospital officials and county commissioners

Leaders from Stephens County Hospital and the Stephens County Board of Commissioners get together to talk about how the hospital is doing.

Monday, the Stephens County Hospital Authority met with Stephens County Commissioners at the Clary Center for their annual joint meeting.

Stephens County Hospital Administrator Ed Gambrell said the meeting allows him and the Hospital Authority to update commissioners on what is taking place at the hospital.

Gambrell started by reviewing financial and patient volume numbers at the hospital.

On the volume side, most indicators of patient volume went down from Fiscal Year 2011 to Fiscal Year 2012, which ended for the hospital back on September 30.

Gambrell said he feels the economy is largely to blame for those drops and cites several reasons.

“One, we see more patients that have no health insurance than say five years ago,” said Gambrell. “Secondly, patients that have health insurance have less coverage than they did five years ago. They might have a larger deductible, for example, than five years ago and it will make people hesitate to go get healthcare unless it is just a dire need.”

One thing Gambrell said he feels is not causing a drop in volume is the new Ty Cobb Medical Center in Lavonia.

Despite the drop in volume, the hospital had a net positive income of more than $700,000 in this past fiscal year.

According to Gambrell, that is due mainly to the hospital decreasing expenses by six percent in Fiscal Year 2012 from Fiscal Year 2011.

Gambrell also said he feels the hospital is in good long-term financial shape with very low bond indebtedness.

“Just under $7 million is all Stephens County Hospital owes in bond indebtedness, which is superb,” said Gambrell. “It is fantastic. I know of no hospital that has as low a bond indebtedness as we do.”

Gambrell also updated commissioners on a number of new services that the hospital has started or is starting, such as its hospitalist program, its orthopedic practice, and its wound care center.

Moving forward, Gambrell said hospitals everywhere face challenges.

He said one of those challenges is the possibility of reduced reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid.

“The Medicare and Medicaid programs continue to look for ways to pay less and less to hospitals, or it seems like that anyway,” said Gambrell. “69 percent of our patients are either Medicare or Medicaid, so we are very dependent on those programs.”

Gambrell said with that in mind, the hospital will have to be as efficient as it can financially and also look to diversify its revenue streams.

Overall, Gambrell said that while there are challenges, he feels things are going well at the hospital.

Stephens County Commission Chairman Stanley London agreed, saying that he heard a lot of good things during the presentation.

“Just to see how fiscally strong they are, how financially strong they are, and (how they are) thinking outside the box with the new wound care center,” said London. “It is just great that we have a team with the Hospital Authority and the Board of Commissioners.”

The Hospital Authority’s meeting with county commissioners followed the regular Hospital Authority meeting. During that meeting, the Hospital Authority approved strategic goals for the next Fiscal Year, which starts October 1. Gambrell said most of those goals are the same as in past years and include running the hospital efficiently, being an employer of choice, and finding new revenue streams.