Archive for Friday, November 30, 2001

Healthy hospital

November 30, 2001

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Lawrence Memorial Hospital's strong financial picture will allow it to build on its success.

It's great news that Lawrence Memorial Hospital finds itself in strong financial health. The city's hospital expects to have net profits of $2 million this year, and expanded services are expected to double that figure in 2002. Because LMH is a nonprofit hospital, all of that money will be reinvested in services and equipment to allow the hospital to provide even better care to local residents.

This strong financial picture wasn't a fortunate accident. It is the product of some good management and a desire to respond to local health care needs. This is a far cry from the situation not too long ago, before Gene Meyer was hired as the hospital's chief executive officer.

Several months ago, LMH officials considered closing the hospital's mental health unit, which had become unprofitable. However, after an outcry from the community and local mental health professionals, the hospital got creative and increased its focus on trying to meet the behavioral and health needs of an older population. Rather than losing an important local service, the hospital added to mental health services. The switch also adds to the coffers at LMH, which is forecasting a 26 percent increase in the number of people served by the reinvigorated mental health unit.

The addition of cancer treatment services also has helped both the hospital and local patients. LMH began offering chemotherapy and other cancer treatments in 2000 and will add radiation therapy for cancer patients next year.

It's sad, in a way, that the hospital has exceeded all projections for cancer treatment services, but it is a blessing that so many local residents now can receive cancer treatments close to home rather than having to make many trips to Topeka or Kansas City to obtain care.

LMH's financial strength pays off in many ways. This year's profits will allow the hospital to invest in expensive new equipment. It also allows LMH to continue its tradition of treating people regardless of their ability to pay. So far this year, LMH has written off $1.6 million for such care, and hospital officials are budgeting another $2.3 million for that purpose next year.

Although many of us are more concerned about the quality of care we receive at a hospital than with whether the hospital is making money, the two things obviously go together. Being financially successful allows the hospital to hire the people and buy the equipment that lets it provide even better care to its patients.

LMH is in a competitive health care market. Many local patients go to larger hospitals in Topeka and Kansas City to receive specialized care, but LMH increasingly is offering services that will make such trips less necessary. And with financial reports like the one received by the board of trustees this week, LMH's strength and scope of services seems bound to continue to the benefit of all Lawrence residents.

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