By TIM HORAN
The $85 billion federal spending cuts known as “sequestration” could have a $200,000-a-year effect on Memorial Health System.
At the regular Board of Directors Meeting of MHS Tuesday afternoon, Mark Miller, chief executive officer, said Medicare reimbursement to critical access hospitals like Abilene Memorial Hospital could see a 2 percent cut in rates.
“If nothing changes, we will receive three quarters of $200,000 for the year than we budgeted for this year from the federal government,” Miller told the board. “Given where Congress is right now, sequestration was an anticipated and acceptable progression of the current situation for both Democrats and Republicans.
“We are a large business and with the simple stroke of a pen, so to speak, we are $200,000 different than where we were two months ago; not that we weren’t aware of the potential,” he said.
“Two hundred thousand dollars is a significant chunk of change,” he added. “I do not anticipate this will change our course in any way. First off, we are not 100 percent certain it will stay.
“We can weather the storm. It’s just a significant storm,” he added.
Critical access hospitals are reimbursed their costs from Medicare.
“What a hospital charges is irrelevant,” Miller said. “We get paid what Blue Cross/Blue Shield or Medicare pays us.”
Paula Dinkel, director of quality, said in her report that patients are confused getting around the hospital but comfortable when they leave.
“Everyone is having trouble finding their way around the facility,” Dinkel said, adding that will change once the new hospital opens in May.
“The discharge summaries showed that 91 percent of the people that leave the hospital facility know what they need to be doing (regarding their health care once they leave.)”
She also said the lab received a 100 percent rating in courtesy of the staff.
Ann Brussow, marketing and communications, said that the MHS new web page should be up and running soon. The web page has expanded the web page domains from five to 15 to help users find what they are looking for more easily.
She also said plans for Flower Power are in the works for May 17-18.
“Trends are changing in fitness,” RaeLyn Swisher, director of Impact Sports & Fitness, told the board in her end-of-year report.
Calling 2012 “our worst year ever”, Swisher said the fitness center lost $40,000.
She said that salaries and increased expenses for the pool were the main culprits. The pool, which the fitness center used at America’s Best Value Inn, caused a considerable increase in costs as MHS is paying for utilities.
The pool is expected to be discussed in detail at the next board meeting in April.
Swisher said some changes may be in the works for the fitness center in downtown Abilene. One change being kicked around is turning the facility into a 24-hour fitness center.
“Now we are a fully staffed, full-service fitness center,” she said. “People want 24-hour access. If we could do that, we could limit staff to business hours.
“That would be a change. It would take away our identity. We are the only full-service facility,” she said.
“That’s not to say that we want to drop the service,” Miller said.
“I know there are other fitness centers that offer 24-hour access,” he said. ‘I don’t know their situation as far as vandalism and theft or inappropriate behavior. And the fact of the matter is, we are a very large fitness center. To open up that large a facility without staffing is different than a room with some equipment in it.”
On a lighter note, Miller said that Dr. Dina Verner, a physiatrist, physical and rehabilitation specialist, will be arriving and her first day of work will be April 1.
The board approved several equipment purchases with the anticipation of opening the new hospital facility.