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KershawHealth to close one operating room

Posted: June 28, 2012 4:40 p.m.
Updated: June 29, 2012 5:00 a.m.

In response to a significant downturn in outpatient surgery volumes, KershawHealth announced Tuesday that it will close one active operating room. The move will eliminate one management position and five clinical and surgical positions. Two current vacancies in the surgical department will also not be filled. KershawHealth officials said in a press release that it expects to save approximately $600,000 each year with the operating room closure.

President and CEO Donnie Weeks and COO/CFO Mike Bunch broke the news to the KershawHealth Board of Trustees during an executive session at the board’s meeting Monday. The healthcare system waited to release news of the plan until it could communicate with affected personnel.

“There a number of factors driving this decline,” Bunch noted. “The ongoing downturn in our economy has had a significant impact, particularly in the area of elective surgeries. But we are also facing significant competition from other hospitals and healthcare providers. After extensive research, we don’t see these factors moderating in the near future, and it is essential we adapt to this new reality.”

According to Bunch and Weeks, outpatient surgeries peaked in 2008 and remained virtually constant in 2009 and 2010. They said the total number of surgical cases dropped by more than 7 percent during Fiscal Year 2011 and expect another 9 percent decline by the end of the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

“We deeply appreciate the excellent work done by our staff, and sincerely regret that this decision will have any impact on our employees,” Weeks said. “However, this is a strategic initiative designed to ensure we respond to the changing surgical environment in a proactive way and that we are able to continue to provide care and services for everyone in our community.

“We have the highest regard for the medical staff at KershawHealth and will continue to support their surgical needs for their patients. In the end, patients will still be able to receive the same high quality, state-of-the-art surgical services at KershawHealth that they have in the past.”

Weeks and Bunch said the plan involves internal changes that will affect staff and scheduling as opposed to the actual scope of surgical services KershawHealth offers. They said it would have little impact on day-to-day operations in surgical services and would not affect KershawHealth’s ability to perform emergency services when needed.

“One point I’d like to make is how important it is for everyone to support our local physicians and use our local hospital. Not only will they receive excellent care, but this is critical to maintain our local healthcare system,” Weeks said.

There was a hint of things to come earlier in Monday’s meeting when Trustee George Corbin -- the board’s finance committee chair -- and Bunch revealed that May was not a good month financially. According to financial and statistical information provided during the meeting, there were only 330 surgical cases in May compared to 388 in May 2011, a drop of 14.9 percent.

Corbin noted that May’s gross patient revenue -- $26.522 million -- is the second lowest since 2008.

“It’s (also) the first time in my memory that we’ve had lower gross patient revenue than in the previous year,” Corbin said.

That, along with a 17.2 percent drop in admissions, contributed to a $438,000 operating loss for the month, compared to $391,638 in operating income in May 2011. Bunch maintained that KershawHealth is still in the black for the fiscal year to date in regard to operating income.

However, that figure stands at $1.057 million, compared to $2.429 at this time in FY 2011, a 56.5 percent decrease.

Surgical volumes have been reported as lower each month since a year ago. According to previous board meetings,  surgeries increased 1 percent when comparing May 2010 to May 2011 volumes; since that time, 2010 to 2011 month comparisons have dropped each time.

In other news:

• Weeks reported that Alyssa Moyer will join KershawHealth in September as a hospitalist. Hospitalists are KershawHealth-employed physicians who work in the hospital setting. He said Moyers is moving to Camden from Pennsylvania. Weeks also said another, unnamed candidate, has submitted their intent to become a hospitalist this summer.

• Trustee Carolyn Hampton, chair of the board’s planning committee, reported that the main campus’ new MRI unit should be completed by July 30. She said the MRI device itself is expected to be delivered July 10.

• Trustee Tallulah Holmstrom reported on internal benchmarks from the Board Quality Oversight Committee. She noted that readmission rates had dropped, calling them “certainly a positive sign.” Overall, she said, most of the factors were good and that staff expects to see continued improvement. Holmstrom also said that with the new Palmetto Health labs partnership, benchmarks in those areas will be adjusted somewhat.

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