published Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Hutcheson hospital officials see slow progress

Aerial of Hutcheson Medical Center at Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.
Aerial of Hutcheson Medical Center at Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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Hutcheson board members said they expect the beleaguered North Georgia hospital’s financial numbers to improve in December, as they met for the first meeting of the year Wednesday evening.

The hospital lost more than $9 million in the first five months of the fiscal year, but board chairman Corky Jewell said they expect to see a gradual turnaround.

“We are in the process of turning around, but it’s in small steps,” Jewell said.

A management partnership with Erlanger Health Systems allows the hospital to utilize “economies of scale” to realize some savings, Jewell said.

Erlanger extended a $20 million line of credit to Hutcheson in May when Erlanger assumed management. Hutcheson, which has changed its name to Erlanger at Hutcheson, has used more than $6 million of that money so far.

Erlanger has also struggled financially recently, losing $6 million during the first five months of the fiscal year.

Jewell said other Chattanooga hospitals are also seeing a downturn in recent months.

Denise Baker, controller for Hutcheson, presented November financials to the board that show average daily number of patients and total surgeries are almost half what they were last year at the same time.

Hutcheson administrator Debbie Reeves told board members the hospital has improved its overall quality of care and patient satisfaction in the third quarter of 2011.

In July, August and September, 92 percent of patients said they were likely to recommend Hutcheson. That number had been 67 percent in the second quarter of 2011.

In the same time period, 89 percent of patients ranked the overall quality of care as excellent, compared to 77 percent the previous quarter.

In other business of the evening, board members voted to renew four contracts with doctors.

They also agreed to leave all board members in their respective positions for 2012.

“We are six months into this new venture with Erlanger, and I think it would be better to leave everyone in place,” said board member William Cohen, who made the motion.

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about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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