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CMC will end year with $1.5 million gain

Budget predicts similar results for 2019


After a year of financial nerves and fiscal restraint, Coulee Medical Center officials delivered good news on progress toward a turnaround Monday night.

Hospital commissioners passed a budget that comes close to double what it was in 2014 and projects a positive bottom line for what would be the second year in a row.

Following a report by Chief Financial Officer Kelly Hughes, commissioners approved a budget that hits nearly $30 million in net patient revenue for 2019 and ends with a net gain of slightly more than $1.3 million.

Hughes said it looks likely the hospital will close out 2018 with a gain of $1.5 million.

The good news came at the end of a year that saw Hughes and Chief Executive Officer Ramona Hicks making trips and calls to visit with nervous Grant County commissioners, who knew the local hospital district was in debt to the county for nearly $4 million about a year ago, as the county covered CMC’s registered warrants — essentially checks written on the county treasury.

That balance was down to zero on Monday, Hughes said, and there was nearly $400,000 “in the bank.”

“It’s so great to see the trends in our revenue,” Hospital District 6 President Jerry Kennedy commented. “To go from $16 million in net patient revenue (in 2014) to … almost $30 million for 2019. That’s just marvelous.”

After a slight gain in 2013, the hospital recorded a loss of more than $6 million in 2014 on net patient revenue of just under $16.2 million. Losses followed in successive years of $1.4 million, $4.7 million and, last year, $1.5 million.

Hicks took the helm of the hospital in July 2017, when she was appointed interim CEO with the unexpected resignation of the prior administrator. By that October, Hicks, whose previous title had been chief nursing officer, had consulted with other hospital administrators and hired an advisor to help right the facility fiscally.

She was the third CEO within as many years, and the district was now $3.7 million in debt to the county and about to scrap a turnaround plan hatched just six months earlier.

The new advisor, Jason McCormick, of B2B CFO, told The Star in an interview then that CMC had “all the resources to be financially viable,” noting “an excellent medical staff and employee base.”

The new plan would include bringing billing back in house because outsourcing it had backfired, increasing the amount of bills not paid to CMC by $2 million.

McCormick attended Monday’s meeting via telephone, and said that Hughes, who was appointed CFO on the same day Hicks took the reigns, had done an excellent job preparing the budget.

Hughes noted Monday that she had included $100,000 less for writing off bad debt, a result of bringing the billing back within CMC and staff working with patients to get bills paid.

It also helped to study the “charge master” — the list of charges on hospital services — and adjust prices up or down, something that had not been done for years. On average, they went up five percent, Hughes said.

Her summary budget report also showed an increase in clinic visits from a low of under 16,000 in 2015 to more than 20,000 this year, and a jump in surgeries performed from 281 in 2014 to 547 in 2018.

The Coulee Family Medicine clinic saw a record 1,798 patients in October.

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