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The Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center passed a $90 million 2020 budget Nov. 26. It also set a mill levy for the hospital district and reviewed board goals for the new year. Vice President of Fiscal Services Lesley Fagerberg, presented the budget documents, explaining the annual process and the critical drivers for each category.

The expanded HRRMC Physical Therapy Department, which features machines for cardiac and other rehabilitation
with views of the Sawatch Range through floor-to-ceiling windows. (Photo by Dan Smith)

The budget shows a 5.5 percent increase in key growth areas and an associated 13.3 percent increase in patient care staff hours. The budget has the 2019 valuation for assessment of the district set at $5.25 million, with $936,797 required to balance the budget general fund. For that, the board approved a tax levy of 1.784 mills of each dollar of the valuation of taxable property within the district for 2019. The current district mill level is 1.944 mills.

The budget is based on the forecast that revenue from Chaffee, Fremont and Saguache Counties’ assessed property valuations is expected to increase 8.2 percent over the current year, representing one half of one percent of total gross patient service revenues. Total gross revenue is projected to increase 9.8 percent; 5.5 percent from volume increases, and 4.3 percent from rate increases.

The most significant factor in operating expenses is staffing. The HRRMC budget anticipates a more than 17 percent increase in total salaries, with fringe benefits budgeted at a more than 18 percent increase. All other costs are pegged at an increase of slightly over eight percent.

The number of employees for 2020 is projected at 606 (representing 477 full-time-equivalent), compared with the 2018 average of 555 employees (416 FTE). Overall, the budget shows a 5.5 percent increase in key growth areas and an associated 13.3 percent increase in patient care staff hours.

Board president Debbie Farrell highlighted the board priorities for the new year via conference call. They include working toward Joint Commission Accreditation with an initial survey done during 2020 to have full accreditation completed.  Others include:

  • The recently-opened Outpatient Pharmacy is budgeted to generate $1.27 million during the fiscal year.
  • The completion of the expansion of the Buena Vista Health Center in a reasonable time frame and within budget is another goal, with lessons learned from the Medical Pavilion construction taken into account.
  • Patient billing was another budget priority, seeking a more focused approach to patient concerns over billing, including developing consumer relations specialists to respond to billing questions and concerns.
  • Refining cost accounting will allow better information on individual physician’s or practice’s financial impact as the hospital moves toward more employed physicians.
  • Continuing to focus on Behavioral Health Services with organizations such as Sol Vista Health to identify gaps and make plans for improving access for such services, and problems such as the transport of behavioral health patients.
  • Continuing a focus on IT security, described as an “ongoing, never-ending challenge because hospital data is highly valuable” and the target of hackers who want to infiltrate records systems.
  • Provide the board with a briefing on hospital security issues in the coming year.
  • Maintain the financial health of the hospital.
  • Continuing physician recruitment efforts and integration of new providers and clinics at the hospital, including a family practice doctor for the Custer County Clinic, integrating Salida Family Medicine, the Saguache Clinic and individual new providers recently added or coming in 2020.

The Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center Pavilion opened May 20, consolidating HRRMC health services on their regional campus. (Photo by Dan Smith)

The board also heard a report on the hospital’s swing bed patient programs from physician’s assistant Niki Starr and Sarah Nazzaro. The programs, for patients with limited mobility requiring a swing bed, includes an effort to improve the experience for patients as well as training and therapy to improve their success at daily living tasks once released and allow them to stay in their homes. The effort involves a spectrum of adaptations and services to help patients recover.

Nazzaro said, “The difference we’re making in patients’ lives in our community …. is the biggest definition of success…”

CEO Bob Morasko reported the Custer County Health District Board approved a plan for HRRMC to operate the Custer County Medical Center according to provisions of a business plan, pending final approval by each of the boards. Talks continue providing a Chaffee Shuttle vehicle in Westcliffe to offer weekday transportation and courier service to HRRMC.

Morasko also reported a grant of more than $654,500 was approved by the Department of Local Affairs for programs to meet the Affordable Health Care Initiative outlined by the governor’s office. The DOLA grant will total $523,618, to be combined with local matching funds.