Hospital says it’s 99 percent recovered | AspenTimes.com

Hospital says it’s 99 percent recovered

Eben Harrell

From rags to riches.That’s the story being told this week by Aspen Valley Hospital officials after the release of the once-struggling hospital’s latest financial statements.Officials said the statements show “a complete turnaround” and said they hope they will rebuild trust in the institution in the months before the hospital district’s property tax goes before voters for renewal in November. Here are some of the numbers highlighted by hospital officials: In January, the hospital made a profit of approximately $1.1 million before taxes. Last January, at the peak of its financial crisis, the hospital ran a loss of $7,000. Because of seasonal traffic, January should be one of the hospital’s most profitable months. By the end of January of this year, the hospital had $6.3 million in cash reserves. Last January, that number was $1.3 million. Due to poor bill collection during the crisis, the hospital was burning about $1 million a month in cash. Cash levels, which affect the hospital’s ability to borrow and spend money, are mostly determined by its ability to collect on patient bills. Now the hospital is collecting efficiently enough to increase cash reserves by nearly $250,000 per month.Commenting on the hospital’s finances yesterday, AVH Treasurer John Jellinek said the hospital is “99 percent recovered” from its fiscal crisis. Jellinek said the turnaround was made possible by the replacement of AVH’s upper management. CEO Randy Middlebrook and Chief Financial Officer Verna Bartlett were both fired last year.”Basically, these old numbers show a loss of focus on behalf of the management, and that’s why they were replaced,” Jellinek said. “Fortunately, our new team headed by [CEO David] Ressler is fantastic.”So what does the financial turnaround mean to the hospital? First off, Jellinek said, the increase in cash-on-hand will allow the hospital to invest in new, state-of-the-art machinery. An obstetrics monitoring system, which allows pediatricians to monitor newborn babies via the Internet, has already been purchased. It is the first in what will be nearly $3.5 million in capital expenditures this year. Previously, the hospital relied on the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation, an outside fundraising group, for such expenditures.”Any help we get from the medical foundation is always invaluable, and their efforts will continue to be a great source of support for the hospital,” Jellinek said. “But we’ve never been able to fund these things internally before. This is a big step for us.”Jellinek said the encouraging numbers will also help the campaign for a renewal of AVH’s public property tax, or mill levy. The property tax raises around $3 million each year. That’s only 6 or 7 percent of the hospital’s overall budget, but it’s still crucial, Jellinek said.”We could have asked voters to renew the levy last year, but we thought we needed to build some confidence first,” Jellinek said. “There should be renewed faith in the hospital as the mill levy comes up for approval.”Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com


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