2012-04-19 / Front Page

FCMC Suffers Federal And State Budget Cuts

Asks state legislators for support
By Jean Snyder
STAFF WRITER


State legislators attended last Friday’s advocacy day at Fulton County Medical Center to hear how cuts in federal and state funding have affected the hospital’s bottom line. Pictured during the meeting are (left to right): Lawrence Baronner of Penn State’s Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, state Sen. John Eichelberger (R-30), Helen Overly and Robert Roush, FCMC’s Foundation and state Rep. Dick Hess (R-78). State legislators attended last Friday’s advocacy day at Fulton County Medical Center to hear how cuts in federal and state funding have affected the hospital’s bottom line. Pictured during the meeting are (left to right): Lawrence Baronner of Penn State’s Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, state Sen. John Eichelberger (R-30), Helen Overly and Robert Roush, FCMC’s Foundation and state Rep. Dick Hess (R-78). Fulton County Medical Center’s (FCMC) executive and senior management staff members along with members of the center’s Board and Foundation met with state and local legislators on Friday regarding budget cuts to the hospital and sent a loud and clear message that “enough is enough – we have done our share.”

Those were the exact words used by FCMC Chief Executive Officer Jason Hawkins after he outlined the steps FCMC has taken to survive the devastating cuts. Both state Sen. John Eichelberger (R-30) and Rep. Dick Hess (R-78) as well as county commissioners Rodney McCray and Craig Cutchall were in attendance at the meeting.

Hawkins began his presentation outlining the hospital’s current financial condition, which shows a profit of $184,682 in the eight-month period to date for fiscal year 11-12 (July 1, 2011-June 30, 2012). Hawkins explained that the hospital is on target to show a profit at year’s end in spite of a $975,000 reduction in critical access hospital (CAH) supplemental payments and a reduction of $50,000 in other federal funds. In contrast, FCMC posted a loss of nearly $1 million in the 10-11 fiscal year. There are also proposed reductions for the proposed fiscal year 2012-13 that could mean an additional loss of $400,000 in hospital and long-term-care funding.

This year’s cuts came on the heels of a $300,000 reduction in CAH supplemental funding for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011. Hawkins explained that the hospital has stayed financially healthy thus far by expense control in the areas of supplies, salaries and wages, contracts and insurance premiums in the areas of both malpractice and health. He also cited partnerships and collaborations with the hospital’s clinical partners and with the Pennsylvania Mountains Healthcare Alliance (PMHA). PMHA covers the mountainous region on the eastern edge of the Northern Appalachian Mountain range. Each of the participating hospitals is located in a rural county. The PMHA member hospitals span an area of 20 counties, and in many instances the members are the sole hospital providers within their counties. Lawrence Baronner, CAH coordinator for Penn State’s Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, also attended the meeting.

Other clinical partnerships cited by Hawkins that are assisting the hospital include Summit Health, Meritus, Pinnacle, Conemaugh and Jersey Shore.

FCMC’s specialty services continue to grow with the recent additions of seven new physicians now visiting the clinic in the areas of neuroscience, orthopedics, gynecology and family medicine.

In spite of the hospital’s cuts in staff due to early retirements and attrition, it still remains the county’s second largest employer and an economic engine for the county. Prior to the staff cuts, the hospital employed approximately 305, a number that is now down to 290, according to Hawkins.

Hawkins said that in spite of the budget cuts and the economy, the hospital is still committed to growth. Projects still in the works include the renovation of the emergency room to add two more bays in anticipation of the Affordable Care Act, which will afford more people eligibility for the Medicaid system. The renovations are scheduled to be completed by January 2013. He said electronic medical records are an ongoing project and that specialist physician recruitment continues.

With the new hospital’s opening nearly five years ago, Hawkins also talked about how the designation of critical access hospital had helped financially and now that supplemental funding appears to be in the greatest jeopardy. The CAH designation given to 13 rural, isolated medical care facilities in Pennsylvania provides for cost-based reimbursement for Medicare patients. However, no similar reimbursement exists for Medicaid patients which basically creates negative patient care margins.

When asked how he could provide support to FCMC, Sen. Eichelberger said he and a group of senators who represent areas where CAHs are located are looking at several ways to assist with the budget cuts. He also said that the state budget was based on a deficit of $500 million, which is now down to about $385 million so “that should help,” he said.

Robert Roush, FCMC’s Foundation CEO, attended the meeting as well as foundation directors Helen Overly, Bill Hine and Todd Alexander. Both Roush and Overly talked about the level of giving from those in the hospital’s service area. Overly said, “They said we couldn’t raise money for a new hospital and we did it, we raised $7.1 million.” Roush added that more than one-third of the county contributes to the hospital, “a staggering number of people,” he said.

Hawkins said what needs to be done now is for the state to maintain medical assistance funding for healthcare, maintain current hospital funding, including Act 49 of 2010, Medical Assistance Modernization, to fulfill the three-year legislative commitment and maintain important hospital supplemental funding for Medicaid recipients.

Although Friday’s message was one of perseverance in the face of financial loss and a reiteration of the “can do” spirit that built the Medical Center, the other message sent loud and clear is that “we have done all we can, we have done our share, and now enough is enough – no more cuts.”

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