By Will Bublitz
Lincoln Community Hospital (LCH) is ending 2012 on a very positive financial basis.
That was the consensus of the Board of Directors after reviewing LCH’s financial statements during its final meeting of the year held last Thursday, Dec. 20.
President Keith James described 2012 as “a great year” for the hospital’s finances.
As proof of that statement, during Thursday’s meeting the board approved a supplemental budget that upped the hospital’s 2012 budget to $13,828,250, including a revenue increase of $1,250,000.
James explained the board always approves a supplemental budget every December, but it usually covers additional expenditures were not expected when the original budget was formulated. However, this time it was different.
“We had to pass this supplemental budget because we had more revenue than we had anticipated,” he said.
This year’s $1,250,000 jump in revenues was due to several factors including an increase in patient numbers following the opening of LCH’s new satellite clinics in Limon and Flagler last August. In addition to these patient revenues, the hospital received an unexpectedly large Medicare reimbursement payment during the year.
In other business at Thursday’s meeting, the board welcomed Cerina Cunningham as the new Director of LCH’s Home Health & Hospice. A Flagler resident, Cunningham previously worked for the hospital as a registered nurse. She has been working as the new director for more than three weeks.
Monika Wilkins, LCH’s Director of Nursing, gave her monthly report on patient numbers during Thursday’s meeting. She told the board that the hospital’s in-patient numbers dipped slightly from an average of two per day in October to 1.5 during November. The same was true for the number of swing-bed patients that fell to a daily average of one in October to 1.5 last month. However, the number of observations doubled during the same period going from one in October to two in November.
November was another busy month in LCH's Emergency Room. Last month, its doctors, nurses and emergency medical technicians handled 206 patients, which was its third highest number for a month this year.
To give the board members a better idea of the types of cases handled by the Emergency Room, Wilkins divided the November patients into the following categories: 150 medical, 4 motor vehicle accidents, 1 motorcycle accidents, 1 farm accident, 7 lacerations, 2 trauma, 6 fractures, 6 chest pain, 5 shortness of breath, 1 overdose, 2 abrasions, 9 sprains and 12 falls.
The number of Emergency Room transfers from LCH to larger urban hospitals rose from 12 in October to 15 last month.
Wilkins also reported the hospital’s physicians had performed 14 surgeries and 12 procedures during November. To help the board understand the type of surgical work that LCH’s specialty doctors are doing, she divided last month’s surgeries into the following categories: 6 cataract, 4 plastics/lesions, 2 gall bladder, 1 carpal tunnel and 1 hernia.
The number of residents at the Lincoln Community Nursing Home dropped from 27 in October to 26 in November. Wilkins reported that as of Thursday, its current census has fallen even further to 22.
Patient numbers for LCH’s Home Health & Hospice are on the rise again. In October, its Home Health patients numbered 14, and it had 9 Hospice patients. During November, 15 patients were enrolled in Home Health and 15 in Hospice.
However, the total number of visits by Home Health & Hospice nurses fell from 283 in October to 205 last month.
Wilkins explained this drop in overall number of nursing visits happened between those two months because a freeze on accepting new patients had been imposed while a new Home Health & Hospice director was being sought. Since Cunningham’s selection as its director, new patients began being enrolled at the end of last month.
Wilkins also included a new category in her report that covers patient numbers at LCH’s three clinics.
During October, the Gordon Clinic had 449 patient visits, Limon 447 and Flagler 399. In November, the number of visits for all three clinics declined with Gordon at 362, Limon 335 and Flagler 261.
Commenting on last month’s drop in patient visits, Wilkins said this was only temporary situation, and all the clinics would probably see their numbers “go way up in December with all the stomach virus that’s going around.”
Also during Thursday’s meeting, Dr. Mark Olson, LCH Chief of Staff, and Dr. John Fox, Deputy Chief of Staff, discussed the transition to the use of electronic medical records. While agreeing it was a good method for collecting and collating “data” on patients, they said it is very time consuming compared to the old hand-written method.
In a related matter, Pat White, George Moats and Tony Lyons from Eastern Slope Rural Telephone Association Inc. spoke during the meeting about installing fiber optic lines between the hospital and its clinics. These high-speed, secure lines could transfer medical data between the facilities.
Also present at Thursday’s meeting was Lincoln County Commissioner Ted Lyons who told the directors that a candidate had finally been found to fill the vacancy on the hospital board after Joanie Chester, a longtime director, submitted her resignation in July. The county commissioners appoint all directors to the hospital board. The appointment of the new director would be approved in January.