Snoqualmie Valley Hospital plans a budget in the black for '05

SNOQUALMIE - The Snoqualmie Valley Hospital passed its 2005 budget last month and administrators are looking forward to a stable future for the once-financially beleaguered hospital.

The hospital board of directors approved its 2005 budget last month, which will see the district getting $8.5 million in revenues. Nearly $6 million in net revenue is expected to come in from patients next year with the rest coming from bond revenue.

The biggest line item expenditure in the budget will go to salaries and benefits, which combined for nearly $3.9 million.

Chief financial officer Don Galer said comparing next year's budget to this year's, or even to last year's budget, is not a fair comparison since so many things have changed since 2003.

"There is nothing to compare what we are doing [now] to," he said.

For a hospital district that has had three different superintendents in the past year, a positive financial outlook is a welcome sign. The hospital has closed down twice since it opened and last fall a broken boiler and the lack of a water boil order during an E. coli outbreak caused some facility and communication issues to surface that ultimately led to the resignation of superintendent Jeff Lyle. Alan MacPhee, the chief financial officer under Lyle, was brought in on an interim basis, and he was replaced by administrator Rodger McCollum. Since being appointed to superintendent this past summer, McCollum has spent his time getting the hospital equipment and services stabilized.

"We are a big empty building with a lot of expensive equipment without the docs," McCollum said.

Part of that stabilization has been getting a list of doctors to not only work at the hospital, but to refer patients to its campus for services. The hospital has hired a medical director and five emergency room doctors to work at its recently certified emergency room (a higher designation than just urgent clinic). The hospital hopes to have its ER designated a Level V (the lowest level ER designation) soon. The designation would put the hospital on a map of other ER providers throughout the county and could increase the numbers of patients it gets. It would also allow the hospital to get critical access hospital designation from the federal government, which would be financially beneficial to the hospital by way of Medicare and Medicaid payments.

ER service levels have risen already. After seeing less than 100 a month at this time last year, the ER sees 300-400 patients a month now. In 2005, the hospital expects that monthly total to grow to 400-500 visits per month.

The hospital also hopes to continue and expand its relationship with Overlake Hospital Medical Center. Overlake took over operation of the hospital's geriatric psychiatric unit (Jeanne's Place) earlier this year after closing its own as part of its massive remodeling effort in Bellevue.

McCollum said the hospital is continuing efforts to get more contracts signed with Overlake surgeons to come out to the hospital's two surgery rooms. Currently, only eye surgeries are performed at the hospital.

To build relationships with family doctors who will refer patients to the hospital, the hospital has offered what it calls management services agreements with local practitioners. McCollum said these agreements allow practitioners to buy services, such as billing, supplies and facilities, at a reduced rate than if they furnished them on their own. In return, the hospital gets a fixed percentage of those practice's receipts.

Expansion is also part of the hospital's plan to make money. This month, the hospital plans on opening a new clinic in North Bend and is in the process of hiring an gynecologist to work at its Snoqualmie campus.

"The fundamental difference is that we are pulling in more specialty people and we are also providing a range of services like lab and some outpatient kinds of things that previously we had to ship out [to get done]," Galer said.

Relying more on private revenues and less on public revenues is the future of the hospital, McCollum said.

"We summarize 2005 as a rebuilding year," McCollum said. "Our goal is to build our operations so we won't be totally reliant on tax revenues."

* The Snoqualmie Valley Hospital's North Bend Clinic, 213 Bendigo Blvd., will have a grand opening celebration on Dec. 8 from 12:30-1:30 p.m.

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