Billing department overhaul is good for AVH |

Billing department overhaul is good for AVH

Despite the fact that as many as six employees may soon lose their jobs, the latest employment news from Aspen Valley Hospital is encouraging.The hospital board agreed this week to hire a private company to handle its billing and collection services. California-based First Consulting Group is expected in the coming weeks to finish negotiations on a five-year, $13.5 million contract with the hospitals new chief financial officer, Terry Collins.If there is a department at the hospital that needed to be outsourced, its billing and collections. The billing system under the leadership of Randy Middlebrook and Verna Bartlett, the now-ousted chief executive officer and chief financial officer, was a dismal failure. The hospital fell millions of dollars in arrears, and is still trying to collect on bills that are three or more years old.The outsourcing plan appears to be the most prudent way to fix this vital department. Aspen Valley Hospital CEO Dave Ressler and the board of directors deserve credit for using the free market to fix a problem more quickly and efficiently than they could on their own.The fact that First Consulting Group is willing to do it with many of the current employees is even more encouraging. The layoff of some 34 employees last spring hit this community hard. Its unfortunate that still more people will lose their jobs, but the situation could be much worse. Currently, company and hospital officials expect six of 36 employees at the Carbondale billing center to lose their jobs. That means 30 people five out six employees will be offered positions with First Consulting. What it means in terms of pay and benefits remains to be seen. But at least the fortunate many will not lose out entirely, and some may end up with a better and more challenging job.After years of mismanagement, Aspen Valley Hospital appears to be regaining its feet and becoming the top-notch, professional organization this community deserves.