“It was a year of growth for Blue Hill Memorial Hospital,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Roraff, as he spoke to dozens of attendees at the August 12 annual meeting.
Growth occurred in obstetrics with the hiring of a second nurse midwife and the delivery of more than 60 babies by BHMH staff through their relationship with Maine Coast Memorial Hospital. “We anticipate OB services will continue to grow,” said Roraff. There was further growth in orthopedics and orthopedic surgery. An assistant will soon be hired for Dr. James White to “alleviate wait times” and possibly to allow for those services in the primary care clinics run by BHMH, said Roraff. Growth has also occurred in the community, as the hospital works to be more active, holding health fairs and sponsoring monthly meals at the Simmering Pot community supper.
Growth is also coming as part of the hospital’s expansion through its master facilities planning. The almost total reorientation and use of existing and new planned space is a project that is “believed to be essential for the viability of Blue Hill Memorial Hospital,” said Roraff.
Planning and preparation for the facility expansion has been approved by Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems’ financial team, and currently a capital campaign feasibility study is being conducted by BHMH employee Chris Haley. Final approval from EMHS is expected in 2014, with construction beginning in 2015, to be completed by either fall 2016 or spring 2017.
BHMH by the numbers
After a number of successive years where the hospital struggled to stay in the black and talk about closure and layoffs made the local headlines, BHMH is on much more solid footing and expected, at the very least, to break even in its current fiscal year, which ends in September. Speaking to the hospital’s finances, Chief Financial Officer Ed Olivier presented the meeting with a nine-month comparison, the first three quarters of 2013 in comparison with the same time in 2012. According to the figures presented, the hospital generated close to a half million dollar surplus, mostly on the patient revenue side, and has seen a 3.7 percent increase in the volume of patient services over last year.
However, after all the other numbers are factored in, including $1.5 million in financial assistance to qualifying patients and $1.2 million in bad (unpaid, with services rendered) debt and a continued loss of grant funding for Electronic Medical Record incentive reimbursement, “it is still a little early to tell how the year will end,” said Olivier, in a phone call after the annual meeting.
“Things are stabilized at this point,” said Olivier, speaking to the hospital’s overall financial situation, “but we still have lots of changes ahead and have to respond smartly to those changes.”
The hospital’s endowment, which currently stands at about $8.6 million, has begun to grow again, increasing by $1.1 million (15 percent) in the last 12 months, said Olivier, adding that it is another sign of positive growth for the organization.
State of healthcare in Blue Hill and beyond
The annual meeting was also addressed by Michelle Hood, president of EMHS, and Zoe Tenney, family nurse practitioner at BHMH, who both shared insight into the state of healthcare at the federal, state, and local levels.
According to Hood the world of healthcare can be summed up by one word: transformation. And transformations are occurring at all levels, she explained, noting that EMHS and BHMH are positioning themselves for success as the transformations occur.
Another word used frequently by Hood was “uncertainty” and while she said there is a great uncertainty in healthcare reform, Medicaid expansion, employer mandates and health exchanges/marketplace formation, she also said “it is a great time to be in healthcare” as these new models—models uniquely focused on health outcomes rather than strictly fee for services—are being created and implemented. While she could not give details of some of the changes being pioneered by EMHS, she spoke about collaborations with other New England healthcare facilities aimed at reducing costs for Mainers (who have higher rates for healthcare than other neighboring states), and of the design of specialized healthcare plans between “some of the state’s largest employers,” including the state employees and Jackson Lab, also aimed at reducing costs through “transformative care delivery.” Hood added, “stay tuned, there is much more about this to come.”
Tenney, who is also a BHMH trustee, said that it is the hospital’s intention to “become a national model for healthcare delivery by 2020,” adding that it is on track to meet that goal. She said the hospital is committed to “providing the best care for its patients: evidence-based, high-tech when needed, but extremely personal…and affordable so people will use it.”
Tenney spoke about the integration of technology in its use of bar codes that match patients (via those plastic admission bracelets) with the right dosage of medications at the right times, as well as the use of enhanced electronic medical records to further reduce medication errors through electronic prescriptions.
She further cited a commitment “to relentless quality improvement” by those in the hospital administration. “These people are not kidding around about quality and we’re seeing the results.”