Top story of 2013

by: HOLLY M. GILL - Mountain View Hospital became St. Charles Madras on Jan. 1, 2013, which was followed by a year of changes.St. Charles Madras at the start of 2014 is a different place from the Mountain View Hospital of just over a year ago.

In January 2013, St. Charles Health System officially acquired Mountain View Hospital through an asset transfer and changed its name to St. Charles Madras. With the acquisition, SCHS now owns the hospitals in Madras, Bend and Redmond, and operates Pioneer Memorial Hospital in Prineville.

The controversial transfer took place at the unanimous request of the hospital's board of directors, which was concerned that the hospital couldn't survive the loss of revenue associated with new federal and state reimbursement rates, particularly since 71.8 percent of the hospital's patients were on Medicare or Medicaid in 2013 — up nearly 22 percent in just five years.

The board determined that the hospital, which had been overseen by chief executive and chief financial officers employed by St. Charles for 12 years, would be strengthened by a closer affiliation with the larger hospital system.

On Nov. 27, 2012, the board opted to turn over its assets of $9.7 million to St. Charles, which agreed to spend a minimum of $10 million on capital improvements over four years, maintain services — such as obstetrics and general surgery — and offer employment to its caregivers.

Since the merger, the hospital has lost numerous former departments — such as billing, marketing, scheduling, finance, medical records and information technology — to "centralization." Employment numbers had dropped from about 230 before the transfer to 194 caregivers by October; even more jobs were eliminated as of Jan. 1.

Despite the losses, Janelle Orcutt, chairwoman of the Mountain View Hospital Board of Directors, said that the board felt that the hospital would have been facing more severe cuts to services and layoffs if it had continued operating as it was.

"In the agreement, what they said they wouldn't cut was services, not programs," said Orcutt, noting that the board was insistent on maintaining services. "They might be stationed in another town, but they're coming in to see patients here."

Programs — such as the Community Health Improvement Partnership, which was cut in late December — were considered more expendable.

"If we'd kept (the hospital), we would have lost many more employees," she said. "Our only other alternative would have been to shrink it down."

"For positions that went away, or were consolidated, those people were offered a different job at the same pay scale," she said. "A lot of people just chose not to take a different job; a lot of other really good people decided to change jobs."

One of the early commitments SCHS made was to add one of the local board members to the system's board of directors. Mountain View Hospital District Board member Mack Gardner, of Madras, is now serving on the 11-member SCHS Board of Directors.

"He's good at letting us know what's going on there," said Orcutt.

St. Charles Health System recently announced that it was in the process of reducing its expenses by $5.2 million, and cut two management positions. As a result of the cuts, St. Charles Madras CEO Jeanie Gentry took on the added role of CEO of Pioneer Memorial Hospital. Additional cuts are expected.

"Next year, with all the changes in Medicare and Medicaid, it's going to change even more," Gentry said in early December. "That's part of the challenge to look at our budgets and see how we can streamline even more."

The Mountain View Hospital Board will hold its quarterly meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 28, at 5:30 p.m., in the Metolius Room at the hospital to review the agreement to ensure that St. Charles is upholding its end.

"We'll be looking at what they spent on capital improvements in 2013," said Orcutt, pointing out that they expect St. Charles to retain its normal capital improvement budget for replacing equipment as it wears out, in addition to planning for construction of improved facilities.

"We'll be looking at what they've budgeted to go into the building project for 2014," she said.

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