published Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Troubled hospital weighing options


by Emily Bregel

Facing declining patient volumes and deepening losses, Hutcheson Medical Center’s leaders are seeking outside advice and weighing options.

Hutcheson officials announced Tuesday that the hospital is partnering with Community Hospital Consulting, of Plano, Texas.

The group offers financial and strategic advice and works to maintain independence and local control for struggling community hospitals that end up collaborating with a larger outside facility, officials said.

“Local control” for a community hospital means “the governing body is responsible for charting the future of the organization, and the profitability ... is 100 percent poured back into that local health care delivery system,” said Mike Williams, president and CEO of Community Hospital Corp., the consulting group’s parent company.

Hutcheson officials and board members have considered partnering or collaborating with an outside entity to help with its financial problems, which officials say stem in large part from the recession.

But Hutcheson President and CEO Charles Stewart emphasized Tuesday that no action has yet been taken to pursue outside partnerships.

HUTCHESON MEDICAL CENTER

Beds: 195 (Parkside Nursing Home has 109)

Primary service area: Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties

“If their (the consulting group’s) assessment leads us to evaluating potential partnerships, we would look to them in guiding us through that process,” he said.

Stewart wouldn’t provide the cost of the consulting contract.

The hospital lost $468,000 in 2008 and likely will lose even more for the fiscal year that ended in September 2009, officials said.

Williams said board members have emphasized that, if a partnership is recommended, they want to work with a nonprofit health care entity.

Officials with Erlanger hospital and Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga — the two closest nonprofit hospitals to Hutcheson — have said they are open to collaboration.

about Emily Bregel...

Health care reporter Emily Bregel has worked at the Chattanooga Times Free Press since July 2006. She previously covered banking and wrote for the Life section. Emily, a native of Baltimore, Md., earned a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Columbia University. She received a first-place award for feature writing from the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists’ Golden Press Card Contest for a 2009 article about a boy with a congenital heart defect. She ...

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