St. Elizabeth is in the black

By MIKE FERGUSON, Baker City Herald November 14, 2008 12:00 am

Hospital turned a profit for the first time in awhile


St. Elizabeth Health Services turned a profit during the previous fiscal year, one of the few times the hospital’s been in the black the past seven years.

The hospital’s annual report for the fiscal year ending June 30 shows net income of $126,350 on revenues of $26,538,017 and expenses totaling $26,411,667.

St. Elizabeth’s governing board president Bob Moon said there are at least two reasons for the hospital’s improved financial performance.

“George (Winn, the hospital’s president and chief executive officer) did a good job managing expenses better,” Moon said. The local hospital also sold some stock it owned in Interpath Laboratories at a profit, Moon said.

The result was “a good bottom line for the hospital,” Moon said, adding the hospital “is never in great shape. We’re still about $18 million in debt. But it was a positive year for the hospital.”

Amy Dunkak, the hospital’s director of communications and business development, said that not only had St. Elizabeth posted a profit for the fiscal year, it was in the black for the quarter ending Sept. 30 and enjoyed a healthy October as well.

lizabeth’s staff performed 29,795 outpatient visits, saw 7,869 patients in the emergency room, admitted 980 acute-care patients, performed 1,332 surgeries and delivered 140 babies.

Employment at the local hospital stood at 230 and salaries and benefits totaled $14,436,865.

While the healthy financial report was her impetus for publishing the annual report, the first time the hospital has done so in recent memory, Dunkak said she also wanted to highlight St. Elizabeth’s initiatives over the past year.

Among them, according to her report:

n The Eastern Oregon Center of Orthopedics, a $485,000 project under the direction of orthopedic surgeon Dr. Eric Sandefur and surgeon Dr. Barbara Tylka.

n The Sleep Center, actually launched in April 2007, which serves the 62 percent of the population who experience difficulty sleeping and are concerned about it. One in four, Winn noted in the report, may have a form of sleep disorder.

n Oncology services, including the American Cancer Society’s Look Good, Feel Better program and a new Community Health Improvement Partnership (CHIP) transportation program aimed at helping oncology patients traveling outside the area for cancer treatments.

n A capital equipment investment of $270,000 from Catholic Health Initiatives to pay for, among other things, new equipment for the emergency room and a new patient lift. CHI also made it possible to purchase digital radiography equipment at the Baker City hospital.

Winn, who will leave St. Elizabeth next week for a new job heading the Evanston Regional Hospital at Evanston, Wyo., said this is the second or third year in his seven years at St. Elizabeth in which the bottom line has been black instead of red.

“I feel good about where we are, but not all of our challenges are behind us,” he said.

Still, two new physicians have been successfully recruited to Baker City, and two more are on the way. The nursing ranks are full, Winn said, despite the nationwide nursing shortage. Having a complete nursing staff saves the hospital money on overtime and fees paid to nursing agencies.

On Wednesday, Winn’s interim replacement, Leanne Irsik, and Bob Wehling, who will be the interim chief financial officer, met with the hospital’s governing board.

Irsik worked for CHI in Kansas and has been doing interim chief executive work for the parent organization. Wehling most recently did an interim CFO stint at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Pendleton.