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Western Md. Hospital Center feels Md. cuts

August 03, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- Western Maryland Hospital Center in Hagerstown will lose money because of a recent round of state budget cuts.

Two weeks ago, the Maryland Board of Public Works reduced the hospital center's budget by $383,776, as part of more than $280 million in statewide cuts for fiscal year 2010.

The state is trying to fill a projected budget shortfall of more than $700 million in fiscal year 2010, according to Gov. Martin O'Malley's office.

The hospital center's overall budget is about $21 million, according to CEO Cindy Pellegrino, so the new cut is less than 2 percent.

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Pellegrino said Monday that final decisions on cuts at the center haven't been made, but she expects that services closely connected to patient care will be preserved.

She said a previous round of state cuts in October reduced the hospital center's budget by about $535,000.

The hospital center cares for patients with mental and physical disabilities.

Of the roughly $280 million the Board of Public Works cut last month, about 70 percent came from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which oversees the Western Maryland Hospital Center.

A Board of Public Works' summary of cuts says for the hospital center: "Reduce budget to reflect lower-than-budgeted population served."

After a few years of budgeting for 90 patients, the center is budgeted for 77, Pellegrino said.

However, the fewer patients tend to be sicker and require more expensive care.

More patients are being placed in specialized units, such as for people with brain injuries or who have had more than one organ fail. For the last year or so, the hospital has had a skilled nursing ventilator program.

Pellegrino said specialty units cost more money than general treatment, so reducing the number of patients doesn't necessarily save money.

Subsequently cutting the budget because of fewer patients "becomes a vicious cycle," she said.

"We are getting to a point (where) it's very tough to operate," she said about budget cuts.

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