MONTPELIER, Vt. — On Wednesday, for the first time since they took over the management of Springfield Hospital, interim CEO Mike Halstead and interim CFO Wayne Scholz met face-to-face with the Green Mountain Care Board here to discuss the hospital’s problems.
Halstead hinted at possible business negotiations with Dartmouth-Hitchcock or another hospital, and said he might be able to restore some of the compensation cuts made a few months ago. But in going over the hospitals’s past and current financial performance, the records show the hospital is still in deep financial trouble.
In the end, the state oversight board granted Springfield Hospital’s request for an additional 5 percent “charge” on its current budget. But even as the hospital crisis continues, the board made clear it cannot extend support to the hospital company indefinitely.
In reviewing the previous budget for fiscal 2018, Springfield Hospital projected an operating margin of -$921,697 and as of Sept. 30, 2018 had an actual operating margin of -$6,996,078, according to hospital figures. The total net loss was $5.9 million.
For the current fiscal year, including the increase that GMCB granted during the meeting, the hospital expects to have a net loss of $6.4 million.
For both years, the projections of revenues and expenses were “significantly overly optimistic,” the hospital stated in a financial report.
Across the board, acute care admissions, emergency room visits and operating room cases are all fewer than budgeted. For the last three years, expenses have increased 11 percent, while revenues have increased 0.7 percent.
Asked why revenue was declining, Halstead said, “We are getting negative press” and so “people are reluctant to seek health care from us.”
GMCB chair Kevin Mullin asked about community support and fundraising, and Halstead said there were plans for some kind of town meeting forum in the near future, but there has not been much activity in actually asking Springfield for donations.
Halstead said that “some preliminary discussions” with Dartmouth-Hitchcock hospital had taken place some time ago, but that the Upper Valley hospital had suggested Springfield Hospital work on improving its financial position first. He did not specify what those discussions involved. He said now that cost savings had been implemented by eliminating childbirth services and other measures, other hospitals may now be more interested in further preliminary discussions.
The management team is hoping “that a partner will come” by end of May, but if not there may have to be further changes to the hospital’s lines of service.
The recent change in vendors in the emergency department shows promise, Halstead said, in that “their style of providing care in the emergency room shows they are ordering few radiology tests, and fewer laboratory tests.”
Patient care has not suffered, Halstead said, because of the dedication of the staff. “We've been successful at convincing people to work additional shifts,” he said. “The staff so cares about each other.”
However, salary and wage cuts made in February were followed by several resignations. Since Feb. 2, the hospital has lost a total of 77 employees, including 20 nurses and 22 administrative staffers.
“Now we are in a position to restore those wages,” possibly as soon as May 5, Halstead said. He added that meetings with staff were expected in early May in a bid to try to retain staff.