The city of Lawrence and its hospital rely on each other to be successful — something leaders underscored Tuesday during an annual luncheon.
After a 30-minute slideshow presentation about the hospital, City Manager David Corliss asked what the city could do to help Lawrence Memorial Hospital.
“Economic development and job creation,” replied LMH CEO Gene Meyer.
Commuters develop relationships with health care providers in other communities, taking business from LMH.
Despite tough competition nearby, the number of outpatient visits at LMH has risen 42 percent since 2003. In 2008, there were about 217,000 visits.
On the flip side, city leaders encouraged hospital leaders to continue to provide high-quality health care, a priority for potential businesses and for retirees.
“I absolutely believe that we need to focus more on having Lawrence be a destination for retirees,” Commissioner Aron Cromwell said. “Great health care is absolutely critical to that.”
During the meeting, Meyer said:
• About 10,000 people who sought care in the hospital’s emergency room last year didn’t have an emergency situation, but probably didn’t have a place to turn or know where to turn. Meyer said more community education about alternative and cheaper options likely is necessary. Nonurgent care made up one-third of emergency room visits in 2008, when 35,354 people visited.
• The length of stay for patients has declined between 2003 and 2008. That has gone from 5.6 days to 4.9 days for Medicare patients, and from 4.3 days to 3.8 days for non-Medicare patients. Meyer attributes the decline to the recent addition in 2005 of hospitalists, which are hospital-based doctors who do not have a private practice.
• The hospital is seeing more people who don’t qualify for charity care but can’t pay their bills. The hospital recorded $13 million in bad debt in 2008, up 62 percent from 2004.
• The hospital provided about $7.2 million in charity care in 2008, up 105 percent since 2004. Last year, it provided $2.2 million to patients of Health Care Access, a Douglas County clinic that provides care for the uninsured. Meyer noted that the amount of charity care was up just slightly in 2008 from 2007.
• The hospital employs 1,209 people and during the first quarter of 2008 only eight people left. Meyer said hospital officials are pleased with that retention rate, but added the economy likely played a factor.