Hospital cites success amidst challenges

By LISA CAPOBIANCO

STAFF WRITER

From state funding losses to recruiting new physicians to planning a downtown project, 2016 marked a year of challenges and accolades for Bristol Hospital.

Overall, Bristol Hospital, Inc. and the Bristol Hospital Multi-Specialty Group ended its fiscal year with a loss of $187,794—which is partly due to the state hospital tax, reported hospital officials during the annual meeting held last Friday at the DoubleTree.

“This was the first year after about eight years of profits to the hospital,” said Doug Devnew, the new chairman of the hospital’s Board of Directors Devnew.

During his financial report, Devnew said the hospital paid about $3.5 million more in taxes, and received about $1.9 million in supplemental payments, which resulted in a $1.6 million impact.

Meanwhile, the hospital’s emergency room and skilled nursing facility, Ingraham Manor, both had solid financial years, while services “grew significantly” for Bristol Hospital Multi-Specialty Group, said Devnew.

From 2013 to 2016, physician office visits increased from 91,096 to 124,197.

“We had some substantial investments within our facilities in the past year, and more are in the process,” said Devnew.

In 2016, Bristol Hospital reported an increase in surgical and endoscopy procedures, but a decrease in medical/surgical inpatient days. From 2013 to 2016, the number of medical/surgical inpatient days decreased from 22,491 to 18,029.

Last year emergency room visits totaled 38,823, which was down 818 from 2015.

“In certain target areas, we grew our market share, even though admissions and patient days were down as a hospital—but I think that’s consistent with the national trend of more outpatient work,” said Devnew, adding that several physician practices were added during the year.

Devnew added that March was a strong month financially, expressing optimism that will continue through the end of the fiscal year, which ends in September for the hospital. “Depending on what happens at the state level…we’re optimistic about ending the current fiscal year with a positive figure again,” said Devnew.

Noting how the past 2.5 years have been a series of ups and downs, John Leone, chairman of the hospital’s Board of Directors, said the nonprofit still made a variety of achievements despite the ongoing state budget challenges.

“Although we lost money, our hospital was able to maintain most services to the community,” said Leone, who was recognized during the meeting for his board service.

Earlier this month, Bristol Hospital joined other healthcare advocates in Hartford to speak out against the additional hospital taxes included in Governor Dannel Malloy’s proposed Fiscal Year 2017-2018 budget. If passed, Malloy’s proposal would allow municipalities like Bristol to tax hospital property that is currently non-exempt and eliminate $11.8 million in annual funding for small hospitals, which includes Bristol Hospital.

“We’re value—we’re an incredible outcome,” said Barwis during his address. “We’re getting it done the right way, and there’s no reason for anybody to touch us, and take the things we turn into gold for this community.”

Calling 2016 a “truly remarkable year,” Barwis recognized a number of folks who have served the hospital, including staff, volunteers, board members and Corporators.

During his address, Barwis also celebrated the hospital’s ability to achieve high benchmarks for patient safety and quality.

Under the Hospital Acquired Conditions (HAC) Reduction Program for FY 2017, Bristol Hospital ranks second statewide and number 446 nationwide for quality of reductions in hospital-incurred infections, as reported by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Other local hospitals that did not receive a positive score in this area lost 1 percent of their Medicare reimbursements, said Barwis.

“It’s critical to being on the top of this list,” said Barwis, who also recognized the recent successes of hospital program.

In 2013, Bristol Hospital embarked on a journey to form a culture that radically reduces catastrophic events for patients. This includes the hospital’s “Journey to Zero Harm,” which has continuously resulted in a decreased number of serious safety events.

“That rate right now is zero. That zero rate means we went greater than 365 days without a serious safety event,” said Barwis.

Looking ahead, Bristol Hospital continues to recruit new doctors while making progress toward its planned ambulatory care center downtown. The 60,000 square-foot ambulatory care center, which will be located on the corners of Main Street and Riverside Avenue, is expected to break ground towards the end of the year.

The hospital is currently wrapping up its contract with the developer Rendina.

“The attorneys and advisors have been working around the clock on that project,” said Barwis.

Besides the downtown project, Bristol Hospital also is planning to expand its emergency room, which will involve community support through a capital campaign.

A key part of the expansion includes a lockdown unit to ensure safety for hospital staff.

“One of the key markers for us is to reduce the level of violence against our staff…which is a problem across the country—it’s very well-documented,” said Barwis. “If we can get over $2 million committed over the next 18 to 24 months…we’re going to start building that lockdown unit in advance.”

Bristol Hospital President & CEO Kurt Barwis (at podium) gives his remarks during the hospital’s annual meeting. Standing beside him: Doug Devnew (left), the incoming chair of the hospital’s Board of Directors and John Leone (right), the current board chair.