Rockdale Medical Center is seeing a rise in admissions and quality but also facing rising uncompensated medical care, reported CEO Deborah Armstrong at Tuesday night's Board of Commissioners work session.
Armstrong gave an overview of the hospital performance, accomplishments and contributions over the past year.
"The hospital is more than a place where people go," said Armstrong. "It's a vital part of the community
"We want to be the hospital where patients choose to come, doctors choose to practice, and most importantly our employees want to work there. Our employees are the foundation from a quality perspective."
The hospital was recently named by the national Joint Commission as a Top Performer on four Key Quality measures, a distinction only two other Atlanta-area hospitals received. "It is kind of the ‘Good Housekeeping' seal of approval, from a hospital perspective," said Arnstrong. RMC was also named by Consumer Reports for surgical safety outcomes.
The hospital saw a rise in the number of admissions, more patients on Medicaid and also more patients who were uninsured.
The number of admissions grew about 3 percent from about 8,400 in 2012 to a projected 8,700 for 2013
The number of ER visits also increased from 48,696 in 2012 to a projected 50,337 in 2013.
Many of those ER visits are not true emergency visits, she pointed out. The hospital does operate an urgent care facility as does Concentra.
"Urgent care is a good access point for lots of people," she said. Patients who don't have a true emergency situation can visit urgent care instead, helping to clear the clog of people at the ER. She said the local health safety net and nonprofit community is looking at ways of educating the public about using urgent care facilities instead.
One of the biggest increases is the amount of uncompensated care, which includes both charity work and unpaid hospital care.
"This is where our hospital is feeling the most burden," said Armstrong.
It is projected to increase from $35.9 million last year to $46.2 million, this year, up 29 percent.
The number of Medicaid patients grew about 3 percent, which is slower than last year's Medicaid patient increase of 15 percent.
"There's a lot of people in Georgia today who are eligible for Medicaid who aren't accessing it," she said. Although Medicaid compensates below cost, said Armstrong, it is better than no compensation.
The hospital is seeing also increased scrutiny from Medicaid and insurers. "If every T is not crossed and I dotted we run the risk of not being able to keep the money for the work we've done," she said.
The proportion of patients paying with Medicaid increased from 18.2 percent two years ago to 26.2 percent in 2013. The proportion of self-pay patients, or uninsured patients, also grew from 8.5 percent in 2011 to 10.2 percent in 2013.
Infant births were flat, reflecting the national trend of a lower birth rate during the recession.
The hospital, which was opened in 1956 and purchased by LifePoint Hospitals in 2009, pays about $1.8 million in local taxes.
Rockdale Medical is also one of the large employers in the area. The 158 in-patient bed acute-care hospital employs about 1,232, with 372 living in Rockdale County and 293 living in Newton County. Of those, more than 800 positions are professional or well-paying positions. It also partners with 30 physicians.
Some areas that the hospital is looking to expand services include a stroke center and neurosciences services, surgical services, and chest pain and cardiovascular intervention.