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Valley General Hospital working hard to turn finances around, CEO says
MONROE - There is more than meets the eye with Valley General Hospital’s financial issues.
The hospital is undergoing a turnaround plan and evaluating its programs to try to solve recent years of fiscal losses. Some aspects the hospital cannot control, though, such as unpaid patient bills, have made righting the finances a bit of an uphill battle.
Valley General’s CEO Eric Jensen outlined what he called “aggressive actions” to get the hospital on track. Valley General overspent its revenues by millions of dollars the past five years, and ate up much of its reserves during that time.
The hospital’s financial state triggered an audit finding from the state Auditor’s Office recently.
This year, the hospital plans to raise its revenue.
Right now, the hospital has a letter of intent with Fairfax Behavioral Health to lease space and services at the Monroe hospital for mental health patients. Valley General will provide housekeeping and dietary care, as well as lab work and pharmacy work.
“The best thing for Valley to do was work with Fairfax,” Jensen said. “The advantage of that is that they would lease the space for that. Pay rent. They would be buying service from us, but it’s a partnership. It’s far beyond a lease payment.”
Secondly, the hospital is in the process of reopening a prenatal program for drug abusers that the hospital closed a few years ago. The Chemically Using Pregnant Women is a stabilization program funded by state Medicaid dollars that generated about $30,000 per month for the hospital.
The program is anticipated to reopen sometime in April through The Recovery Center, Jensen said.
Jensen said implementing a new pulmonary rehabilitation program is also in the works. He took the plan for board approval late last week.
“Many people could benefit from this service locally.” Jensen said.
One of the main cost issues the hospital gets hit with is unpaid hospital bills and an overload of charity care bill discounts for low-income patients, older Tribune stories highlight.
The hospital hopes to see turnaround to these ends with the Affordable Care Act.
A Washington State Hospital Association study suggests the Affordable Care Act could have a five percent impact on net income for Valley General. Jensen said this could improve the hospital’s bottom line in charity care debt by as much as $100,000 per month.
During 2013, for example, the hospital was writing off up to $490,000 a month in unpaid patient debt and up to $115,000 in charity care discounts each month.
In 2011, charity care and unpaid patient debts cost Valley General $8.3 million, or about 17 percent of its budget. That percentage is one of the highest for any hospital in the state.
Jensen wants to get more people signed up for the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid. The enrollment deadline is March 31.
The district also trimmed costs in recent years.
The hospital partnered with EvergreenHealth last year to strengthen operations.
Valley General also recently partnered with EmCare, a national staffing company for emergency care and hospital programs. The partnership will save the district $400,000 a year in staffing costs and in-patient care.
“They (EmCare) are providing board-certified physicians and internists to provide care,” Jensen said. “We have a better opportunity to coordinate care from the emergency room, to in-patient care, to hospital.”
Valley General is also working on renegotiating vendor contracts to reduce costs. An example of this is the district reevaluated insurance needs, and was able to reduce costs by over $300,000 a year.
Valley General’s headcount was approximately 390 employees in 2012, down from 511 employees in 2010, state Auditor’s Office and hospital records show.
The numbers are adding up, or in this case, taking away from the outstanding amount of debt and loss of revenue in recent years. Jensen remains optimistic for the future and what these programs will bring.

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