Mountain View Voice

News - December 17, 2010

El Camino Hospital's finances looking healthier

by Nick Veronin

A series of policy changes at El Camino Hospital — for patient care, staffing and executive salaries and benefits — are starting to bear fruit, according to hospital officials.

What started as a bleak 2010-11 fiscal year for El Camino is showing signs of improvement as the books were closed on the first quarter.

Bob Dvorak, interim chief financial officer for El Camino, seemed somewhat optimistic as he reported on October, the hospital's fourth month of the fiscal year, at the board of directors' meeting Dec. 8. In June, the hospital approved a budget that assumed a loss in income from operations of $16.8 million by the end of October; instead, El Camino had a total operational income of $449,000, beating its forecasted budget by $17.25 million.

In an e-mail to the Voice, Dvorak credited the Accelerating Continuous Excellence — or ACE — program with El Camino's current financial standing, but noted that the health care organization still has work to do.

"We are still not at a sustainable operating income performance level," he wrote, "but are starting to see the benefits from our ACE initiative generating positive operating income and have guarded optimism of achieving our budgeted operating income targets by the last quarter of fiscal year 2011.

While inpatient medical procedures are down from last year, according to Dvorak, certain outpatient procedures are running ahead of budget and the hospital is doing better than it budgeted for in labor and supplies.

New policies

Not all initiatives aimed at cutting costs fall under the purview of the ACE program.

Prior to the introduction of ACE earlier this year, Cheryl Reinking, vice chief of clinical operations, set out to save money by reforming a practice known as "constant observation."

Under this practice, patients who are deemed at risk of attempting to get out of their beds and potentially falling down, were watched over by a dedicated patient safety attendant. Reinking, who had read of other institutions cutting back on constant observation staff by using one attendant to monitor multiple patients, introduced a new system called "increased observation." Now, one attendant monitors four patients at a time. The new system has already saved the hospital $163,820 on patient safety attendants. There is a lesson to be learned from this savings, Reinking said.

"I think there are many areas in the hospital where we can learn to be efficient without sacrificing quality," she said. "We have to be more efficient as we look ahead to health care reform."

Looking forward, the El Camino board of directors recently modified the charter of the hospital's executive compensation committee to allow for a freeze or reduction in executive salaries "when financially prudent," a stipulation which had not been in the charter before.

The charter also made cuts to executive's severance packages. Now, the severance period for executives terminated without cause will last only six months, instead of the previous 12 months.

Chris Ernst, an El Camino spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail that the changes to the severance package and pay structure for executives was modified in light of the competitive practices of other area hospitals, and takes the recession into account.

Comments

There are no comments yet for this post

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Choose a category: *

Since this is the first comment on this story a new topic will also be started in Town Square! Please choose a category that best describes this story.

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields