NEWS HEADLINES

Hospital to become community health clinic

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, November 29, 2014
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Wise Regional Health System will convert its Bridgeport campus to an urgent care/ambulatory surgery center Jan. 1.

The change, which will shut down the emergency room, was discussed at Monday evening’s at a hospital board meeting and announced to employees Tuesday.

It was just a little more than two years ago, on Nov. 8, 2012, that North Texas Community Hospital in Bridgeport declared bankruptcy. The hospital, which opened in 2008, had been in default on $59.1 million in bonded debt for several years.

After submitting the only bid, Wise Regional bought the hospital in federal bankruptcy court for $20 million and took ownership March 24, 2013. It reopened May 7 as Wise Regional Bridgeport – a fully-staffed, fully-licensed inpatient hospital.

After continuing to absorb steep losses, they closed down the medical/surgical inpatient unit and the ICU last December, leaving only the ER and outpatient services in operation.

The latest move will close the ER and convert the facility to an urgent-care clinic, staffed by nurse-practitioners and operated under Wise Clinical Care Associates.

“First and foremost, we’re just looking for ways to save money,” Wise Regional CEO Steve Summers said Tuesday. “We can save about $2 million in the next 12 months by making this change, rather than just maintaining the status quo.”

Summers said in the 19 months Wise Regional has operated the Bridgeport facility, it has lost $6.2 million.

But while the move is primarily financial, Summers said he believes the facility will be a better fit as an urgent care clinic that will continue to serve the community.

“The existing ER over there is consistently seeing about 400 patients a month,” he said. “Ninety-five percent of those could be seen in an urgent-care environment. So you start looking at alternatives to that.”

He said unless the patient requests to go to Bridgeport, most of the county’s ambulance runs are already coming to the Decatur hospital. The ER patients at Bridgeport are mostly walk-ins, whose needs can be attended to more economically – for the hospital and the patient – in an urgent-care clinic rather than an ER.

The urgent-care clinic may even attract more patients to the facility.

“An ER is just a higher-cost environment than an urgent-care environment,” Summers said. “This is a practical way to take away some of the costs we’re not seeing the benefit of.”

Currently, if someone comes into the Bridgeport ER with chest pains, they will likely be transferred to Decatur, where the system’s cardiac facilities are based.

Starting in January, if that person walks into the Bridgeport urgent-care facility, they will simply call 911, Summers said – just like any clinic or doctor’s office would do.

“All this change means is that about 5 percent of those patients are going to be transferred to Decatur,” he said. “The rest can still be taken care of in the urgent-care clinic.”

Summers said there are still a few details to be worked out to lease the space to Wise Clinical Care Associates, a subsidiary of Wise Regional.

“My expectation is, that’s not an issue,” he said. “I really feel very confident about this service.”

OCTOBER A RECORD MONTH

New Chief Financial Officer Todd Scroggins reported to the board Monday that October saw the highest gross patient charges in the hospital’s history – at $56 million.

The daily inpatient census was 75, with a net increase in assets of $436,000. The new Parkway surgery center netted $100,000, while the Bridgeport campus lost $327,000.

The hospital’s cash position increased by $1.2 million during the month.

Scroggins also reported on Medicare and the Hospital Authority’s bond portfolio.

BUILDINGS AND BUDGETS

Summers said the hospital’s building committee would meet in the next few weeks to look at some floor plans for the new Fit-‘N-Wise building.

“Once those are set, they’ll start working on the exterior plans for the facility,” he said. The fitness and therapy center will vacate the main building to make room for mechanical equipment to operate the second patient tower, which will be built next to the current one.

Scroggins also gave the board an overview of the 2015 operating budget, with net revenues projected at $212 million and a $15.7 million increase in net position after expenses – more than double this year’s net, which is projected to be about $7.5 million.

There are three key factors in that increase, he noted.

First, having a full year of service at Parkway, which opened in May this year. After startup costs with about a $3 million loss this year, he projects about a $3 million gain in 2015.

Second, he noted the cost of refinancing the hospital’s bonds – about $3 million – was in the current budget year and will not recur.

The third factor is the changeover at Bridgeport, which should provide for smaller losses and allow for more efficient use of that facility.

The hospital expects to spend $4.9 million for capital improvements next year, including $1.6 million for information systems and $2.1 million for a telemetry system for critical care.

OTHER BUSINESS

The board also:

  • approved the appointment of Scroggins as CFO, Paul Aslin as Chief Operating Officer and Jon Walker, M.D. as Chief Medical Officer of Wise Clinical Care Associates;
  • approved the purchase of a MizuhOsi ProAxis Spinal Table for Parkway Surgical and Cardiovascular Hospital at a cost of $150,960;
  • after 45-minute closed session, the board approved 12 medical staff appointments including 10 physicians, a nurse-practitioner and a physician’s assistant in anesthesia, neurology, physical medicine/rehabilitation, family medicine, surgery and emergency medicine;
  • heard from Summers that agreements with the recently-approved nursing facilities and related paperwork are in progress and are expected to be finalized soon;
  • praised both the Decatur and Bridgeport Auxiliaries for successful holiday fundraisers that will help support equipment purchases for the hospital and fund scholarships for local students;
  • got a report on physician recruitment efforts, with six new positions projected in 2015 including two already under contract for pain management and general/bariatric surgery.

The board’s next meeting is Dec. 22.

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