Phoebe board OKs FY 2011 budget

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Finance Committee recommended, and the hospital's board later approved, a budget for Fiscal Year 2011 Wednesday.

The budget, which totals $478 million, includes plans to reinvest $24 million in services, technology and facilities. More than $139 million will be put toward community benefits, which includes specific health programs and clinics, as well as increases in indigent and charity care.

Facilities expansion and improvement are also on the capital expenditure list, with $2.5 million for patient rooms and nursing areas. About $8 million has been earmarked for equipment and other renovations, such as upgrades for operating rooms and the hospital's cardiac catheterization lab.

The Finance Committee also recommended no immediate pricing increases, pending evaluation later in the year. The wild card for that decision is the state Medicaid budget, so the hospital has been budgeted for a 12 percent revenue increase just in case.

"We are hopeful we will manage with no (Medicaid) increase this fiscal year," said Kerry Loudermilk, Phoebe's chief financial officer, at the Finance Committee meeting.

Indigent and charity care are projected to reach $57 million in 2011, $4 million more than 2010 projected levels. Uncompensated care is budgeted at $63 million, almost $1 million more than last year's contributions. Nearly $1.9 million has been allocated to the school nurse program, clinics, teen pregnancy prevention and other community health initiatives.

"This allows us to continue our mission to the community," said Joe Austin, chief operating officer for Phoebe Putney Health System.

The budget also allows a 3.5 percent pay increase for the hospital's 3,800 employees, something the organization was unable to do in 2010.

"Tough economic times have made things very difficult, so employees didn't get a raise last year," Austin said. "The fact we can do this now is huge."

Over the next two years, the hospital is expected to provide more than $44 million in reinvestments in facilities and technologies. Operating income is projected to be at $8.6 million.

In other Phoebe news, state officials came to perform a site survey on the newly built Willson Hospice House in mid-July -- allowing the facility to start seeing patients.

"We started taking patients the next day," Austin said. "This is a really special place."

In light of recent break-ins at abandoned properties, Austin said hospital officials are in the process of taking a closer look at such properties currently under Phoebe ownership in downtown Albany and working to either ramp up security at those buildings or demolish them.

Officials will be meeting with the Albany Historic Commission to eventually determine what to do with the 10-12 properties in question.

"If we can refurbish the properties, we do it; if it's in a state that is not good, we try to board it up," Austin explained. "(Break-ins) create an environment that neighbors don't want. If we can't keep the properties safe, we need to demolish them.

"We suspect residents in the area would be supportive of this."