Hospital to furlough non-healthcare employees

The Barnwell County Hospital is taking a healthy approach to hard economic times and Medicare woes without cutting into the quality of its patient care.

At a Barnwell County Council meeting Feb. 3, Mary Wisner, the interim chief executive officer for BCH, presented Council with a cost-containment program that will save the facility about $236,000 a month.

"The hospital is being proactive to a decrease in funds from Medicare and Medicaid," said Wisner.

Since the hospital's fiscal year began in October, it has suffered a loss of about $400,000, she said.

Those losses are primarily from recent changes in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, she said.

"It (losses) is not just happening in Barnwell County, this is happening across the nation," she said.

Those changes in reimbursements stem from Medicare criteria on how patients are determined in-patients and which are considered outpatients.

"Needless to say, the reimbursement for an out-patient is less than for an in-patient," Wisner said.

Wisner said the cost-containment program calls for saving $236,000 a month by giving furloughs to 32 non-direct care employees - such as housekeeping and the business personnel - and a more accurate inventory process on supplies.

About $100,000 will be saved by the inventory process which calls for a decrease in supplies as well as having a uniform standard on purchases.

"This (furloughs) will not affect the quality of patient care at the hospital," she said. "It (furloughs) is for people that do not provide direct patient care - I want to stress this is not going to affect the care of patients."

The personnel will work four days a week, instead of five and they still keep their full benefits, said Wisner.

"I believe the people in Barnwell County wouldn't have many options in this job market and I didn't want to do layoffs," said Wisner. "I really feel a commitment to these people and I'm optimistic this is going to be for the short-term and I'm looking at ways to increase revenue."

Wisner is confident the newly opened sleep lab will soon roll out a profit and it is already starting to show financial results.

"One out of four people have a sleeping disorder and this is a golden opportunity for people not to have to drive to Augusta or Columbia to have their sleeping disorder diagnosed," she said.

She also expects the hospital's three primary care practices - in Blackville, Williston and Wagener - to show larger profits in the future.

One method to boost the primary care profits will be to have special clinics at each location, which Wisner plans on doing as early as this month.

Those clinics would be diabetic, obesity, and anticoagulation clinics.