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The Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center (HRRMC) Board of Directors heard fairly upbeat news on the financial front at its regular meeting Tuesday.

While a revenue shortfall was expected when surgeries and other procedures were suspended after the coronavirus outbreak, the drop-off was steep. Government support programs have softened the blow; however, debt on the facility’s expansion and costs of operation are as real as the virus’ continued health impacts.

Vice President of Fiscal Services Lesley Fagerberg reported the district net operating income was showing a loss of $102,424 for the period ending on Aug. 31.

“So we are just about breaking even on operations now as we pull out of the very negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, April and still to a degree now,”  said Fagerberg. But she termed the financial picture a ‘reassuring change and improvement.”

Fagerberg said thanks to advance Medicare payments, which apparently will have to be paid back, the level of days of cash on hand was “doing fine,” at 224 days short-term.

Her report showed total operating revenue year to date down 9.5 percent at $54,568,902 compared with the budget projection of $60,322,248.

CEO Bob Morasko reported the Custer County Health Center, which will become part of the HRRMC district, had been reviewed and certified as a Certified Hospital-Based Rural Health Clinic.

HRRMC Foundation Director Lezlie Burkley spoke to efforts to assist Planned Parenthood in the wake of the state not supporting a statewide cancer screening grant in the future, which helps assure that disadvantaged and underserved women get annual screening tests.

Burkley said they are looking at creating that kind of critical access service through the hospital, which could take six months to establish.

“In the meantime, we are looking at all options to serve these women and to make sure those women have the choice of coming to HRRMC for mammography and health checks…”

Efforts are also being made to secure a state Department of Local Affairs grant to expand HRRMC’s Emergency Department for the pandemic/decontamination department addition.

In other action, the board approved capital purchases, including an intensive care unit bed for Nursing Services, a treadmill for the Rehab Department, an ultrasound machine for the expansion at Buena Vista Health Center, a stress test system for the Cardiopulmonary Department, and a magnetic resonance imaging chiller replacement, among other purchases.

New Food Management Software

The board also watched a presentation Dietary Manager Ryan Murray about new food management software. Murray said the new system replaces a prior paper procedure. A room aide working with an electronic tablet now helps patients order meals at any time, and he credited the system with being a lot more innovative and patient-friendly. Patient meal orders can show information on the food nutritional value, portion sizes and how much sodium, carbohydrates, fat and other components is in each order. This allows the room aide and food preparers to screen for things like the need for low sodium in the diet of heart patients.

Murray said the system takes the guesswork out of meal ordering and the order is printed out about an hour before plating for the kitchen staff who can also monitor for any patient health concerns, saying it “goes through a couple of sets of eyes before it gets to the patient.”

Food is prepared “à la minute”, he noted, meaning about a 15-minute window between from order to delivery to the patient to insure freshness.

He also said a new latte coffee machine is very ‘user friendly,’ with automatic features for employees and should be up and running in a short time.