NEWS HEADLINES

Inpatient services to be suspended at Bridgeport

By Messenger Staff | Published Saturday, November 30, 2013

{{{*}}}Wise Regional Health System will suspend inpatient services at its Bridgeport campus effective Dec. 1.

That announcement came in a news release Tuesday after the hospital board met Monday evening. The matter was not on the board’s agenda.

Wise Regiounal Bridgeport Campus

Wise Regional Health System Bridgeport campus

According to the news release, the change will affect only the medical/surgical inpatient unit and the ICU. The facility will remain open, focusing on outpatient services including surgery, radiology and emergency services – but patients who need an overnight stay will be transferred to Decatur.

The former North Texas Community Hospital in Bridgeport opened in August of 2008, but by the following May was in default on $59.1 million in bonded debt. In Nov. 2012, the facility filed for bankruptcy.

With the bankruptcy case in federal court in Fort Worth, Wise Regional was the only bidder and purchased the hospital for $20 million in February of this year. The Decatur-based hospital system assumed ownership on March 27.

Throughout the transfer, the hospital’s ER department remained open, although Wise Regional did shut down much of the facility for remodeling and upgrades before opening it back up to inpatient services and surgery on May 7.

“We had hoped to see enough inpatient volume at the Bridgeport campus to provide a good level of support for the facility,” said Donna Stowers, the Bridgeport hospital’s administrative director. “An Intensive Care Unit was opened at the end of September to further encourage inpatient admissions to the facility. Unfortunately we have not seen the patient volumes that are necessary to make inpatient services a financially viable effort.”

WRHS expected to encounter losses on operations, but CFO Jim Eaton said the Bridgeport campus has continued to lose about $350,000 per month. Inpatient volumes, which were projected in the 8 to 10 patient-per-day range, have instead remained at 1 to 2 patients-per-day.

In presenting the budget for the upcoming fiscal year at Monday’s board meeting, Eaton projected a loss of $2.6 million for the Bridgeport facility in 2014 as currently operated. Potential changes were noted, however, in the executive summary that accompanied the 20-page document.

“Inpatient surgeries and patient admissions have been budgeted for 192 and 864, respectively,” the summary said. “This is a significant growth from current volumes and the opening of the critical care unit is expected to help generate these volumes.”

The report went on to predict that “ancillary services such as respiratory, pharmacy, imaging and laboratory” would also see growth if those patient volumes materialized. “At these budgeted amounts, it is worth operating at the current level of service,” the report stated.

But it sounded a cautionary note.

“In the event that inpatient services are curtailed at Bridgeport in 2014 due to continuing low volume, that patient volume would be picked up at the Decatur campus, but at a lower overall cost,” it said. “In that event, there would not be a negative budget impact.”

The Bridgeport hospital was originally licensed for 35 patient beds. Before the ownership change, it had 200 employees – 130 fulltime. Wise Regional was able to take on almost all of those employees who wished to stay.

In fact, Wise Regional added the equivalent of 243 full-time employees through 2013, primarily due to the acquisition of the Bridgeport campus.

Steve Summers, chief executive for WRHS, said all the equipment at Bridgeport will remain in place and its license to operate as an inpatient facility will be maintained.

“Our goal and hope is that this is a temporary suspension,” Summers said. “We are committed as an organization to providing quality care in Bridgeport and health care services which are needed and will continue to do so.”

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