The financial health of Lawrence Memorial Hospital is vital to our community because it ensures the hospital will be a continuing source of high quality care for Lawrence and the surrounding area.
This week, the LMH trustees and administrators received a 2007 audit report that showed the hospital had increased its revenue by $5.6 million over 2006 to a total of $137.2 million. An increase of about 4.5 percent is great news, especially at a time when hospitals are being challenged by rising costs and lagging reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid.
The increase seems sizable, but it was accompanied by an even larger increase in expenses: $6.2 million. Thanks to investment income and other earnings, however, LMH revenue stayed $14.1 million ahead of expenses for the year.
Such gains certainly are not automatic. Last month, Mercy Regional Health Center in Manhattan, Kan., cited budget problems in announcing it was eliminating 61 jobs and shutting down two units. The units being closed are a special care clinic that focused on wound care management and the hospital's inpatient behavioral health unit. The latter is of particular interest to those who are concerned that LMH no longer provides inpatient mental health services. Although many in the community would like to see those services restored, the Manhattan experience provides additional evidence of the financial challenges of providing that type of care.
In the last year, LMH has seen an increased use of inpatient and outpatient services as well as increases in births and emergency room visits. Hospital leaders attributed inpatient revenue increases to growth in invasive cardiology services and the addition of vascular surgery. Such services are an indication of LMH's efforts to reach into new areas that not only boost hospital revenues but also allow more local patients to receive their care closer to home.
Also among the hospital's rising costs for 2007 was the cost of providing care to those who are uninsured and can't afford to pay. The hospital wrote off about $7.1 million in charity care, compared with $6.1 million in 2006.
Under the leadership of CEO Gene Meyer, the nonprofit LMH has set a course that stresses high-quality services and personnel and takes an appropriately aggressive stand in a highly competitive health care market. It also has benefited from strong community support, as evidenced by private donations to help fund the hospital's current $45 million expansion project.
Like about any other business, a hospital that isn't changing and looking ahead is destined to fall behind the competition. Lawrence can be proud that LMH continues to look to the future and expand services to meet the community's needs.