Summit Health reports healthy bottom line

November 23, 2005|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Summit Health finished its 2004-05 fiscal year with a healthy bottom line, but there are concerns about Medicare reimbursements with the addition of the prescription drug benefit, President Norman B. Epstein said Tuesday after delivering his annual report.

"While nearly half of Pennsylvania's 182 acute care hospitals continue to lose money, both Chambersburg Hospital and Waynesboro Hospital have positive bottom lines, an essential factor to enhance the future," Epstein said in his annual address to the hospital board.

Summit Health, which owns Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitals and more than 30 affiliates, had operating revenues of $256.7 million in 2004-05 with expenses of $246.5 million, according to Patrick O'Donnell, the vice president for finance. Summit Health is Franklin County's largest non-governmental employer and its approximately 2,600 employees earned more than $138.6 million in salaries, wages and benefits, he said.


During the year Summit Health also spent approximately $34.2 million on capital improvements, according to O'Donnell. One major improvement was the construction of a new $13.9 million emergency department at Chambersburg Hospital, according to Epstein.

There were 44,358 emergency room visits to Chambersburg in the past year, along with 13,314 inpatient admissions, 318,537 outpatient visits and 1,349 births, the annual report stated. Waynesboro had 19,731 emergency room visits, 3,178 admissions, 104,172 outpatient visits and 450 births, the report stated.

Summit Health also broke ground on the Summit Keystone Pavilion on Norland Avenue this year, which Epstein said will house the John L. and Cora I. Grove Cancer Center, the Franklin County Heart Center and Keystone Women's Care among other services, he said.

Chambersburg Hospital was named one of Pennsylvania's best places to work in 2005 by the Great Place to Work Institute, Epstein said. Waynesboro Hospital earned the same distinction in both 2003 and 2004, he said.

Free care for underinsured and uninsured people by Summit Health totaled approximately $30 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30, Epstein said.

O'Donnell said that was an increase of about 10 percent over the previous year and attributed part of that to changes in the guidelines of Summit Care, the program for those patients.

"We made it easier for individuals to qualify for write-offs and free care," O'Donnell said.

Epstein did point to some warning signs on the horizon, including the pressure the Medicare prescription benefit could put on other Medicare reimbursements.

"Medicare is only as big as the federal government will allow it to be," he said. When Congress and the federal government look for cuts in other Medicare programs, he said, "traditionally, where they've allowed it to be cut is hospitals."

He said the percentage of Pennsylvanians covered by employer health insurance programs is at its lowest in a decade at about 65 percent and the population is aging and requiring more medical care.

Summit Health has a program to attract more general practice physicians and specialists to the area, but Epstein said the doctor shortage is a national problem. The rising demand for health care could result in a nationwide shortage of 1 million nurses by 2020, he said.

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