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Desperate Hospitals And Where Do We Go From Here - April 1, 2010 Update

Posted Apr 05 2010 9:23am

Over the weekend I watched a completely entertaining satire on healthcare today in the US, the movie “Robodoc”.   It poked fun at a lot of what is going on today image with healthcare and takes the future of technology to the hilarious extremes.  The movie also makes some very good points too on what healthcare morality is like and/or is growing to be with big money as the focus.  

National Lampoon made their points with the outlandish and funny scenes on how technology and healthcare today are having trouble finding balance.  We see some “dirty” insiders here using some “dirty” algorithmic formulas to fight technology too.  Alan Thicke plays the doctor/administrator responsible for running the ER room and the scenes of what comes in and how they are dealing with it.  You also get the big picture too on how corporate investing plays their role and some individuals trying to cash in. 

Again, I found the movie extremely entertaining and funny but yet still caught the political and morality messages they were trying to convey.  The movie makes some good points in showing that things are not always as they seem and why we end up making “stupid” decisions sometimes, or should I say those that look stupid due to the amount of information flowing today.  Among all of the characters too is the IT genius and you can see how his moods and successes pivot up and down, based on what is happening with “Robodoc”, as it is his technology and he’s right on target with the “quick” fixes.  The movie came out in 2008 and when you see where we are today, the producers were ahead of their time here and actually did some pretty good behind the scenes predicting on where we are headed.

Back on target, here’s what’s happening around the web this week with hospital layoffs and budgets for the Desperate Hospital listings.  We have a little bit of everything happening here, and the focus all comes back around to money.  Like every other industry healthcare technology is replacing humans where possible and proper implementation is key so we still have morality with some of the emerging technologies today. 

I will be losing my “meter reader” soon as the electric company will be installing “meters with a chip” soon.  I don’t like to see anyone lose their jobs by any shape or form, but hopefully by bringing about an awareness here perhaps some of the surprise elements can be eliminated and warn of what is here and what is to come.  Perhaps some of the hospitals listed here are also exploring some of these areas with technology to somehow get the job done.  When money is tight or non existent, it seems we all start searching somewhere for answers.  BD

Ascension Genesys in Flint, MI settled with the U.S. Department of Justice for $669,000 for overbilling Medicare. This was money meant to serve Michigan's elderly. Now Genesys wants to cut its licensed nurses, paramedics and EMTs, placing patient care further at risk.

Ascension managers want to stop health care for its employees when they retire. Pope John Paul II called for work that "guarantees those who have retired have a decent standard of living."

STOCKTON - County policymakers today will consider laying off about 100 hospital workers for a possible savings of $5 million a year, part of ongoing efforts to transform San Joaquin General Hospital and lessen the impact the financially struggling hospital has on the county's bottom line.

The hospital is expected to lose roughly $20 million this year, a figure in line with losses at the hospital in recent years. The county owns and operates the public hospital and covers its budget shortfalls, but a looming deficit facing all county departments has increased the sense of urgency of reforming San Joaquin General.

Layoffs appear to be on the horizon for the Abington Health System after the Montgomery County hospital experienced a drop in patient volume.

In a prepared statement, CEO and president Larry Merlis says Abington Memorial Hospital has seen steady annual growth over the last decade but recently there have been declines in inpatient volume.

He says that will mean reductions in staff levels, including retirements, reduction of work hours and layoffs. Hospital officials say they don’t expect to have numbers until sometime in mid to late April. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry says it hasn’t received any word about impending layoffs at Abington Health.

Hospital workers, carrying signs that read “Patient Care is Not Part Time,” also raised concerns about the layoff-rehire scheme's potential effects on the quality of services at the hospital. “It can't work in the emergency room and it can't work in the rest of the hospital,” said Ed Kinchley, a social worker who works in the hospital's emergency room.

Shari Zinn, an X-ray technician in the hospital, said her department already runs below minimum staffing levels, forcing patients to wait two to four hours for X-rays. Since X-ray technicians are hard to retain, she is not being laid off, but clerks and aids in her department are. “If there isn't a clerk or aid,” Zinn said, “then an X-ray tech has to stop what they're doing. Fewer patients can be served.”

Hospital officials would not comment on the layoffs.

After running up more than $80 million in losses over the last four years, including $26 million in 2009, Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland said Thursday it must restructure its outpatient services, develop new business opportunities, and negotiate higher private insurance and government reimbursements to cover patient care costs.

The losses have been mounting “at an unsustainable rate,” acknowledged President and CEO Bert Lubin, M.D., who took office last August.

LAS VEGAS -- Citing the economic downturn and a need to restructure, St. Rose Dominican Hospitals announced it had eliminated 57 jobs throughout its three hospitals.

The employees, who were notified Wednesday, worked mostly in supervisory and support areas, hospital officials said.

“Many in our communities now lack insurance, are postponing elective procedures and are even unable to afford basic care, said Rod Davis, President and Chief Executive Officer of St. Rose Dominican Hospitals

The hospital is short of workers and now employees must take 10, 12 or 14 unpaid days off depending on their pay grade by July 2011.

"When I want to take a furlough day, and it puts us below the minimum number of people required to operate, they have to bring in a person on overtime to take my place," Davis said.

And when others are on furlough, Davis says he has had to work mandatory overtime — which means a 16-hour shift instead of the usual eight hours.

The Fulton County Hospital Board of Governors met on Monday, March 22, and hospital administrator, Joe Hammond, had some bad news on the financial front.

"Our year to date loss, as I knew it would be for this month, has crested a million dollars to $1.2 million," said Hammond. "You'll see that compared to the prior year to date, we are down $2,444,000 in patient revenue. Net collections are down compared to prior year to date $392,491."

But it wasn't all bad news in the financials for February. "Our losses are not uniformly shared across all departments. I talk often about Physical Therapy and how well they are doing. Physical Therapy's gross revenue year to date is $346,870, with a net profit margin of $120,000, so they are doing really well."

Upwards of 30 nurses at St. Joseph’s General Hospital can expect to receive pink slips within the next two months, according to the unions representing the nurses.

On Monday, the B.C. Nurses’ Union and the Hospital Employees’ Union, who represent RNs and LPNs respectively, received 60 days notice from the hospital. The BCNU was told to expect 25.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) layoffs, which translates into about 35 full- and part-time nurses losing their jobs, says BCNU Pacific Rim chair Jo Taylor.

Here’s a couple stories outside the US, so the problem is not only here in the US but global, but I think due to our current structure with healthcare we may be feeling the crunch here even more so. 

In the same week Democrats forced unwanted healthcare reform down America's throat, internal documents surfaced across the Pond showing plans for massive budget cuts at Great Britain's National Health Service.

"The sick would be urged to stay at home and email doctors rather than visit surgeries, while procedures such as hip replacements could be scrapped," the Daily Telegraph reported Friday.

"Documents show that health chiefs are considering plans to begin sacking workers, cutting treatments and shutting wards across the country."

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