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Haywood Regional projects positive financial picture

Haywood Regional Medical Center was in better financial shape than expected as it embarked on an affiliation with neighboring hospitals under WestCare and entered a management contract with Carolinas Healthcare System this month.

The latest financial report for Haywood Regional Medical Center shows the hospital is exceeding its budgeted targets, despite a tight economy and the continued uphill climb to rebuild its reputation after failing federal inspections in 2008. That year, the hospital lost millions after essentially shutting its doors for five months during a top-to-bottom internal overhaul.

The hospital reported a nearly 2 percent profit margin for October and November of 2009. It marks a four percent turnaround over the same months last year, which showed a nearly 2 percent loss.

The number of patients has increased over last year, although not to the level hospital officials hoped. Nonetheless, the hospital remained profitable by slashing expenses.

“We’re not making as much money, but we’re spending less money, and that’s a very good thing,” said Treasurer Cliff Stovall of HRMC at the hospital’s last meeting as a public entity.

The hospital has made meaningful changes across the board, according to Gene Winters, HRMC’s chief financial officer.

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“We’re working a lot smarter and harder,” said Winter, who attributes the success to the hospital’s employees. “We went through a bad patch and wanted to come out and really hit the ground running, and that’s what they’ve done.”

HRMC is leaving certain positions open after people retire or move away and is utilizing in-house nurses, rather than more expensive contract nurses, to fill in when short-staffed.

The hospital is also getting a bigger bang for its buck by focusing capital investments on equipment that generates returns.

For example, the hospital spent roughly $50,000 on emergency department software, which paid for itself within the first 15 days.

HRMC also purchased a digital mammography machine, which fetches more revenue from health insurance companies since it detects breast cancer earlier.

Replacing the hospital’s film mammography machine also meant eliminating the expense of film, chemicals, and labor used to process the images.

Winters said that could mean cost savings of well over $100,000 if HRMC uses the mammography machine as much as it did last year.

Entering into a management contract with the Carolinas Health System, a conglomerate based in Charlotte with a network of 32 hospitals, means the hospital faces the potential of saving money on even basic purchases.

HRMC has already taken advantage of its improved buying power by saving 12 percent on new gastroscopes and 11 percent on orthopedic bone screws.

“That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s several hundred thousand dollars over a course of a year,” said Winters. “It’s a very big chunk of change.”

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