Like most of our readers, we have a close, personal relationship with Glens Falls Hospital.
Our children were born there, loved ones died there, we’ve visited sick relatives and friends, relied on the emergency room in more than one crisis and personally seen doctors save lives.
The hospital is an institution.
It is our region’s largest employer.
So, when we learned this past week that the hospital had been losing a significant amount of money in recent years, we were immediately concerned.
The hospital is not only integral to Glens Falls, but the region as well.
During a meeting with this editorial board, hospital CEO Dianne Shugrue characterized its operating losses in 2017 as about $12 million and a little bit more in 2018. Shugrue said its budget for 2019 looks to reduce those losses.
The hospital is battling an economic downturn on two fronts.
First, it has been losing customers. It had 4,000 fewer patients in the Emergency Department last year, and over the past few years, 7,000 fewer diagnostic X-ray procedures and 2,000 fewer surgeries.
Secondly, 82 percent of its inpatient visits use Medicare or Medicaid. These government insurance programs reimburse the hospital at a rate that has the hospital losing money. Only 15 percent of its patients use commercial insurance, which gives the hospital its highest rate of financial return.
GLENS FALLS — The leaders of Glens Falls Hospital are working to avert a financial crisis through cutbacks in money-losing services, an affili…
Shugrue said these financial figures are not unique, and that most community hospitals are facing similar issues. She said 161 hospitals around the country have closed since 2010, including six in New York.
That should get your attention.
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Considering recent improvements and upgrades at the hospital and a significant grant from New York state, the financial losses were surprising.
Shugrue talked openly about the challenges ahead. Unfortunately, that has not always been the case with hospital management in recent years. That said, Shugrue said she understands the need to do a better job communicating with the community.
The hospital has already planned an invitation-only forum to “discuss the intersection of community and the hospital, including our strategic direction, future plans, and current challenges” for Thursday, Feb. 28 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
We think this is a great first step, but we urge for a series of public forums to be held around the region, scheduled as soon as possible.
There is a lot to be discussed, as we learned this past week.
There has been an ongoing and vibrant discussion locally and nationally about health care coverage for individuals, but what has not been part of the discussion is the effect health care coverage — especially the payouts from federal programs — can have on community hospitals like Glens Falls.
When the future of your local hospital might be at stake, the issue is way more important than politics. It’s time for us to light a fire under our representatives to get them looking at some realistic solutions.
We’ve been told for years to avoid emergency room visits as a way of combating increases in insurance premiums. But fewer emergency room visits have reduced hospital revenues.
We have already seen the impact in recent months with the hospital cutting back on hours at primary care centers in Salem and Granville, while closing its Acute Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit and its Center for Occupational Health in an effort to reduce losses.
The hospital is also pushing forward with an affiliation with Albany Medical Center. Since both hospitals are currently going through “due diligence” for this endeavor, hospital administrators say they have not been able to even talk specifics about how they can help each other.
Shugrue hopes the affiliation is approved by the state later this year and is operational by 2020.
Unfortunately, it is unclear how this might improve the hospital’s bottom line or what it might mean regarding specific services at the hospital, but we are hopeful it will help.
We don’t believe this is a time for residents to panic or point fingers of blame, but this is a crisis that needs to be addressed.
Understanding what is happening with the hospital’s finances is a good first step. Hopefully, it will lead to a profitable way forward and a way for the community to help.