Medical system in good health, executive reports

The president of Summit Health, which owns two area hospitals, also warned of many uncertainties in the health care field.

The president of Summit Health, which owns two area hospitals, also warned of many uncertainties in the health care field.

November 27, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The president of Summit Health spoke Tuesday about the overall good health of the local medical system, but warned of future uncertainties.

"Given my 30 years in health care, I've never before experienced the uncertainties, pressures and difficulties facing physicians, hospitals and other providers across the state and nationwide," said Norman B. Epstein, president and chief executive officer of Summit Health, during his annual address Tuesday.

Summit Health operates Chambersburg Hospital, Waynesboro Hospital and several medical centers in Franklin County that employ more than 2,200 people.

Epstein identified several issues that concern him, including an increasing uninsured population, insufficient capital in many hospitals, increases in costs coupled with declines in reimbursement, long-term shortages of labor, shortages in physician specialties of all types and a lack of a sensible system of providing liability insurance for hospitals and physicians to practice.


Epstein said hospitals have faced these issues before, but never all at once.

"We have experienced work force shortages in the past, but this one, especially in nursing, is expected to become a chronic condition that could result in half a million nursing vacancies by the year 2020," he said.

While the health care system will have to tackle these issues, Epstein said Fiscal 2002 was "healthy," with Summit Health investing more than $16 million in new medical equipment, information technology and facility upgrades to maintain state-of-the-art facilities.

"I share this because as we show prospective physicians through our facilities, they often comment that where they currently practice in nearby urban or suburban areas, and other parts of the country, they do not have the level of technology we offer our community," he said.

Other accomplishments Epstein listed include:

  • Working closely with legislators to find some beginning solutions to the "medical liability crisis" affecting hospital and physicians.

  • Maintaining average staffing vacancy rate at less than 5 percent, while other health care systems see 15 percent to 20 percent vacancy rates.

  • Renovating and upgrading sleep lab services at Chambersburg Hospital and opening a new rehabilitation and sports medicine department at Waynesboro Hospital.

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2002, Chambersburg Hospital had a total operating revenue of $129 million, about $13 million more than last year. It was driven primarily from higher reimbursement from payers and volume, according to Epstein.

Chambersburg Hospital delivered more than $14 million in free care and salaries of $67 million while malpractice and other insurance costs increased by 71 percent.

Waynesboro Hospital's total operating revenue was $36.3 million, an increase of $2.3 million. It was driven by higher outpatient volume and increased payments from Medicare due to the reclassification of the facility to the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Free care provided by the Waynesboro Hospital totaled $3.3 million for the fiscal year, while the hospital paid more than $20 million in salaries.

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