Growth is something David Gilbreath said he hoped to nurture during his tenure at Central Peninsula General Hospital in Soldotna.
Since Gilbreath, chief operating executive, took the helm of CPGH Inc., the nonprofit organization that manages the hospital, in December, he said he has sought to implement changes to grow the facility.
He pointed to changes that were in the cards for the hospital, including near and distant future facelifts to the Kenai Peninsula Borough-owned facility and tighter spending of a CPGH Inc. operating budget that reported its first loss in seven years.
"I predict that the hospital will have a six-figure loss this (fiscal) year, at best," Gilbreath said, anticipating improvement over the $2.4 million loss reported for Fiscal Year 2002. "Next year, we will be in the black."
He listed among budgetary adjustments cuts in spending for consulting, citing a contract with hospital management company Quorum Health Resources that included salary for the interim administrator and a monthly "oversight" $30,000 fee, among others. Such expenses were identified as major factors in the 2002 shortfall, and the contract with Quorum ended in December.
But Gilbreath said simply trimming the budget wasn't enough. Increasing patient revenue was where he said the hospital needed to focus to close the fiscal gap and effectively meet the needs of a service area that includes peninsula residents living outside of Seward and Homer.
"We can't do it just on the expense side," he said. "You have to spend some money to make some money."
A recent rate increase was part of this change, but he said pay raises for unionized and nonunionized employees and adding two general surgeons meant more people would be able to get basic services in a better environment.
"The focus is to cut expenses where you can," Gilbreath said. "But we need to meet the needs of a growing community."
He said the hospital administration and the CPGH Inc. board of directors are looking for more ways to improve the hospital, suggesting the need for a full-time family practice physician, a diabetes dialysis department and an oncologist (or cancer treatment specialist).
"We don't need chemotherapy patients driving to Anchorage," he said.
The borough assembly recently approved a $400,000 ordinance to conduct renovations that would address specific needs lacking in the facility's current configuration.
Primary in those needs is adherence to federal privacy standards dictated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which among other things addresses the security and privacy of health data.
The renovations will commence next month and be completed within three months, Gilbreath said, saying the work would segregate clinical and administrative space in the hospital.
The assembly also recently named a bidder to conduct a programmatic study and schematic design for a larger facility. Soderstrom Architects, of Portland, Ore., was picked with a bid of $190,060, less than half of the $400,000 the assembly approved for the work. Gilbreath said he expects to have a scaled drawing of proposed additions to the facility within a two-month timeframe and said the entire study would be done by late June.
He said preliminary designs called for use of existing space before making additions, however, and hinted that the hospital would need help to pay for the additions.
"Every square foot of space is to be used," Gilbreath said. "How are we going to sell that to you who may be called on to possibly help fund it?"
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