Month of April shows positive financial gain for Veterans Memorial Hospital; Myers discusses hospital ranking among other CAH facilities

by Brianne Eilers

The month of April ended on a positive financial note for Veterans Memorial Hospital (VMH) in Waukon with a net income of $66,864. According to patient census numbers for the month, acute patient days were down 13.8% and skilled days were up 8.4%. Deliveries were also up over last year by 3.6%, and Administrator Mike Myers noted that VMH had a very strong year in the delivery department last year. Surgeries were strong in April, but not quite as good as they were year-to-date at this time last year. Outpatient services were all increased and strong, with outpatient revenue being up 6.9%, while inpatient revenue was down 3.9%.

“April was a pretty good month,” Myers noted, adding that May is not looking very strong financially. The number of days in accounts receivable is at 85.1, compared to 91.9 last year at this time. Cash reserves are down to $1.7 million, as the hospital used some of those funds to purchase new equipment.

Myers also discussed data compiled by the Iowa Hospital Association to show how VMH compares to other Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) in Iowa and the nation. He explained that nationwide many rural hospitals are in danger of closing, and over the past year to year and a half, 74 have closed nationwide. Myers said those hospitals were mainly in non-Medicaid states. He said in Iowa, however, there are no CAH facilities on the watch list.

“We are in the medium range,” Myers said, “and for us to get no tax support right now, that’s pretty good.”

In many areas, VMH was solidly in the middle range, or closer to the top range. Myers did point out that VMH is closer to the lower range in areas like Age of Plant, with another lower scoring area being Long-Term Debt to Capitalization. VMH scored closer to the Top Range in the areas of Operating Margin and Total Margin.

Myers spoke a little bit about his trip to Washington D.C. a couple of weeks ago to discuss the field of healthcare. He said there were approximately 25 attendees from Iowa and they met with the aides for the Iowa congressional delegation. Both the House and Senate were in recess at the time of the conference.

“There’s a couple of things we really hammered home,” Myers said, explaining they discussed the 96-hour rule and physician supervision. Myers also said that a topic that was discussed that was an eye-opener for him was the significant rise in prescription drug costs.

“One of the examples they gave was TPA, which is a clot-busting drug they give now in certain strokes. It has gone up $900 per vial in one year,” Myers said. He noted that many other nations have controls on the costs of prescription drugs, so the question was posed to the aides about why they can’t do that in the United States.

Dr. Benjamin Nesseim and Dr. David Schwartz also attended the conference, and Myers said they were able to articulate the physicians’ views on some of these topics, such as the 96-hour rule and physician supervision, much better than any of the non-physician attendees could.

In other matters, the “go live” date for Athena Health has been pushed back to Tuesday, June 1. “I think like any other electronic health record there’s going to be issues during the implementation,” Myers said. “But we’re excited to begin the next phase of our partnership and there are a lot of people really working hard to make this successful.”

The Community Wellness Fair hosted by the hospital in early May had over 350 attendants. Myers said that attendance was slightly down from last year, but the weather wasn’t very nice that day and likely played a factor in that lower attendance number.

The new ambulance has arrived for the hospital. “We very much appreciate the partnership between the City, township trustees, hospital and the hospital foundation for continuing to make sure we have adequate vehicles to provide ambulance services,” Myers said.

VMH will be purchasing a new microscope for ophthalmology. The price tag is around $70,000, but it will be replacing a microscope that is 25 years old and was donated to VMH by Gundersen.