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Phoebe: Uncertainty in health care industry

Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Board Chair John Culbreath listens as Joe Austin, chief operating officer of Phoebe Putney Health System, gives an overview of Phoebe’s budget for Fiscal Year 2014 at the board’s meeting Tuesday. The latest budget was compiled at a time officials say there is uncertainty in the health care industry. (Jennifer Parks)

Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Board Chair John Culbreath listens as Joe Austin, chief operating officer of Phoebe Putney Health System, gives an overview of Phoebe’s budget for Fiscal Year 2014 at the board’s meeting Tuesday. The latest budget was compiled at a time officials say there is uncertainty in the health care industry. (Jennifer Parks)

ALBANY — With the budget for Fiscal Year 2014 being the primary item of business at the board of directors meeting for Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital on Tuesday, some acknowledgement was given to how recent circumstances are making the fiscal environment uncertain for the health care industry, including Phoebe.

A number of factors come into play that officials say has the potential to cost Phoebe several million dollars in the coming months, including Georgia’s decision to decline expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, elimination of Disproportionate Share Hospital dollars — a program in which hospitals could receive at least partial compensation for the treatment of indigent patients — as well as continued growth in high deductible health plans, the number of uninsured and under insured and the continuing increase in medical innovation and technology costs.

“That is hurtful for the entire industry, but particularly here,” said Joe Austin, chief operating officer for Phoebe Putney Health System, of the Medicaid issue at a finance committee meeting earlier in the day Tuesday.

The budget, which was approved by the full board after it had been reviewed and recommended by the hospital’s finance committee, included a projected net income of $5.5 million for Fiscal Year 2014, up from $1.6 million the previous year.

For this fiscal year, which officially started on Aug. 1, construction projects that are currently under way include a new emergency department registration area and a second catheterization lab at the hospital. Among the construction to begin or expansion planning to begin include renovations to Phoebe’s seventh floor, construction of a new hospital supply distribution center at Pecan Grove Corporate Park and replacement of the hospital’s computer system.

Meanwhile, renovation planning is under way for Phoebe North. The future of that will depend on the outcome of the Federal Trade Commission’s case against the $195 million acquisition of the hospital in December 2011, a dispute that has been in settlement talks for several weeks.

“The budget this year was particularly difficult due to the changing landscape in health care,” Phoebe CEO Joel Wernick stated. “Medicaid cuts, the elimination of Disproportionate Share Dollars, continued growth in high deductible health plans, Health Care Reform — all have caused much uncertainty in the health care industry. What remains certain, however, is Phoebe Putney Health System’s commitment to providing the highest level of care possible to the residents of our community.”

Also at the meeting, Dr. Steve Kitchen, medical staff president at Phoebe, gave some acknowledgement during his report to the recent retirement of Dr. Jeffery Hoopes of Cardiology Associates.

Having three decades under his belt in Albany, Hoopes was the one who established Cardiology Associates — earning him the right to be known amongst his colleagues as the father of cardiology in Southwest Georgia.

“He provided immense service to the community for 30 years,” Kitchen said. “Dr. Hoopes was a pioneer in that his professionalism brought in physicians that chose to come here to work with people like him.”