TGH board gets a look at recovery plan

February 07, 2003 12:00 am

By ABBY SOUZA

Tuolumne General Hospital's long-awaited financial recovery plan, which lists ways the ailing hospital can cut costs and increase profits, has been unveiled.

At a board of trustees meeting yesterday afternoon, hospital Administrator Barry Woerman laid out his plan for fixing TGH's money problems, and will do the same at the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday.

But one supervisor — Chairman Mark Thornton — got a preview by sitting through yesterday's four-hour meeting.

Woerman's plan would increase hospital revenue by $1.9 million over the fiscal year that starts July 1, but even if the county goes along with the proposal, TGH will still have a budget shortfall of $1 million.

That hole would have to be filled by the county.

"We looked at all kinds of possibilities," Woerman said of developing the proposal. "This is a very painful process."

But it is necessary, the county has said, because the hospital is losing money every month, despite almost $6 million in county loans and nearly $11 million in cash infusions from the general fund over the past six years.

County officials have attributed the hospital's six-year history of fiscal trouble to poor management decisions, changes in health insurance reimbursements, a decline in patients and a failure to increase billing rates when it was appropriate. Woerman took the helm in 2001, and, with other TGH administrators and a consultant, spent more than a year preparing the plan he revealed yesterday.

The proposal lists 10 program changes the hospital administration believes will increase revenue or reduce expenses.

One idea is to separate the Visiting Nurses Association from the hospital, making VNA its own county program, no longer funded by hospital money.

Woerman said functionally, VNA would stay the same, but the change in where it gets its funding could help when it applies for grants.

However, the county would have to agree to take on VNA as a separate program — an idea County Administrative Officer C. Brent Wallace couldn't swallow.