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CMC turnaround plan will cut $2.1 million from payroll


Leaders at Coulee Medical Center will submit to its federal funding agency by the end of the week a plan to turn the facility around financially.

That plan will show a reduction in wage and benefit costs of $2.1 million a year following decisions made by Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Owens to cut staff in non-patient care positions.

“People understood that we needed to adjust where our focus was in the facility,” Owens said of the general reaction in the hospital, which has employed as many as 225. “If it wasn’t a direct patient care position, it had to be looked at.”

Owens said the number of positions cut could eventually reach as high as 20, but many of those are already vacant because Owens and consulting operations and finance specialist Chris Bjornberg had already been working on a restructuring plan before Owens got a call from Housing and Urban Development, the federal agency that loaned the money for the new hospital’s construction.

The plan to accomplish a $6.5 million turnaround this year includes a major revamp of the business office operations, including bringing in a company with new software for billing to cut the length of time before bills finally get paid to CMC, currently an average of 122 days compared to an industry average of 52.

About half of the $7 million the hospital is waiting to collect is more than 90 days old.

Of a dozen employees in the business office, some will apply for jobs elsewhere in the facility, Owens said. Four will likely be hired by the new company and continue to work in the building, but not for CMC.

Those who get training in the new software and other new procedures will be much better positioned at a later date, when it’s hoped they’ll be hired back by CMC.

“We want to inevitably pull them back once the new software is in place,” Bjornberg said.

The departure of some staff and some “locum tenens” agency nurses, and the hiring of its own nurses, has also reduced expenses.

HUD can either approve the turnaround plan or request other changes within 25 days.

Once HUD has approved it, Owens said, he’ll meet with Grant County officials to show them the plan. The hospital has been writing county warrants to pay some bills and owed the county $2.6 million at the end of February. Owens said the goal is to have that debt pared to $1.5 million this month.

The hospital had budgeted to lose more than $400,000 in February, often a lean month, but lost less than $142,000.

Bjornberg said financial statements in May will start reflecting some of the adjustments.

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