Finance committee, hospital board approve budget

Photo by Special photo

Photo by Special photo

ALBANY, Ga. -- There are no health care price increases set for patients at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in the immediate future, its Fiscal Year 2012 budget indicates.

Phoebe's finance committee, and the hospital's board, both gave blessings to the budget set for FY 2012 on Wednesday. The budget allows for a 7 percent increase in admissions and equivalent outpatient days.

It also reinvests more than $245 million in services, technology and facilities.

The budget also funds $134.6 million in community benefits, an increase from the $131.4 million allowed for the previous year.

The community benefits category includes indigent and charity care, the school nurse program and volunteer programs.

The net income for Phoebe is expected to be $17.8 million, down 11 percent from 2011. Salaries will also increase an average of 3.5 percent, in addition to increases based on market adjustments.

Officials say there are also expansions and improvements on the capital expenditure list with $3.5 million allocated to patient rooms and nursing areas, $15 million for the digestive disease center on Meredyth Drive and $195 million to fund the purchase of Palmyra Medical Center.

Equipment and other facility renovations, including upgrades to operating rooms, are projected to cost more than $6 million.

The finance committee recommended, and the board later approved, no immediate pricing increases for the second consecutive year.

"We constantly stay on top of the prices in the health care market," said Joe Austin, chief operating officer for Phoebe Putney Health System. "(If we don't increase the rates), it impacts the whole community.

"I think that in itself is a community benefit."

Indigent and charity care are projected to reach $26 million in 2012 and uncompensated care is budgeted at $48 million, more than $1 million over last year's totals.

In the budget, there is roughly $2 million set aside for the school nurse program, clinics, teen pregnancy prevention and other initiatives including "Rachel's Challenge."

While looking at these numbers, Phoebe officials acknowledge that the health care landscape continues to present challenges for hospitals -- which face declining reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid.

"I think we are all worried about health care financing," Austin said. "We are keeping a close eye on that. It may mean we manage expenses more closely.

"The one thing the community should demand from us is to practice (strong fiscal management)."