Stephens Co. Hospital Authority Meets With County Commissioners

Stephens County Hospital delivers a mixed report to Stephens County Commissioners.

The hospital authority hosted county commissioners for their annual joint meeting at the Clary Center on the campus of Stephens County Hospital Monday.

During the meeting, Stephens County Hospital Administrator Ed Gambrell told commissioners that the hospital suffered a loss of nearly $2.5 million in Fiscal Year 2013.

He said much of that was due to low revenues that were the result of a reduction across the board in patient volume indicators like admissions, births, ER patients, surgical cases, and more.

“I know some people, because of the economy or because they lost their health insurance or they still have health insurance but do not have as good a coverage, they are more hesitant to use health care,” said Gambrell. “Other than that, I really do not know.”

Gambrell said he does not feel that the neighboring Ty Cobb Medical Center is affecting those numbers, noting that Stephens County Hospital continues to see about 12 percent of its patients from Franklin County, which he says is similar to past years.

Because of the tough financial year last year, Gambrell says the hospital engaged in numerous cost-cutting measures in recent months to cut expenses.

Also, Gambrell said the hospital is looking to create new revenue streams while providing new services needed in the community.

“For example, wound care is one of those,” said Gambrell. “There was a great need in the community for a wound care center. We built it and it is up and running and doing well and it should have a positive influence on the bottom line.”

Other areas Gambrell said the hospital is looking at include adding more personal care beds in the future and directly employing more physicians.

Gambrell said that the current fiscal year is looking better than last year, though he says he is not sure if the hospital will break even this year.

He did say that while the short-term financial picture has been tough, the hospital’s long-term finances are in order.

Stephens County Hospital has less than $6 million of long-term bond indebtedness. Gambrell says that compares well to hospitals in neighboring counties that have $40 to $50 million or more in long-term bond indebtedness.

He said that is a good thing because the hospital is not tying up a lot of money to pay principal and interest.

Also, Gambrell said can it have another benefit.

“It would make us more attractive down the road if we do need to borrow some money on a long-term basis,” said Gambrell.

Stephens County Commission Chairman Dean Scarborough said Monday’s report from the hospital shows it has had to make tough decisions and tough cuts to get through the economic downturn.

“It looks like those cuts and adjustments they have made have made a difference,” said Scarborough. “It is a great hospital and a great facility.”

Scarborough also said the hospital has great employees and the county appreciates what the hospital does for the community.

Monday’s joint meeting with county commissioners followed the regular monthly meeting of the Hospital Authority.

During that meeting, the Hospital Authority unanimously approved the hospital’s strategic goals for the year.

Gambrell said those are yearly goals covering areas like creating different revenue streams, providing quality care, and operating in a fiscally responsible manner.