Major changes coming to Regional West Medical Center; CEO and Pr - Scottsbluff Area News, Sports, and Weather

Major changes coming to Regional West Medical Center; CEO and President to retire

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With the changing landscape of health care, Regional West Medical Center is trying to adapt accordingly.

Today, hospital CEO Dr. Todd Sorensen hosted a meeting with area media to discuss trends they are seeing locally and nationally- and how they are affecting health care and RWMC.

A new strategic plan has been announced; and highlights include reducing $20 million in expenses in the next few years, as well as Sorensen retiring at the end of 2014.

Dr. Sorensen says the panhandle has been experiencing a slow, but declining population. He says it averages out to about one-tenth of a percent a year. This comes at a time of rapid growth in surrounding areas, such as Denver, Cheyenne and Rapid City.

He says there has been a growing capability gap between RWMC and large neighboring facilities. "Our organization grew as a referral center," says Sorensen, "And this difference in capabilities between us and those facilities is making an impact now."

Those changes are contributing to the volumes they are seeing- about a 5 percent decline in the past 18 months alone. Sorensen says 5 percent may not seem like much, but the nature of health care is a pretty high fixed cost, so small changes on the margin make a big difference.

"Larger systems are paying a lot more attention to what's happening here. It is making it a lot more difficult to establish and maintain the relationships that we've always counted on for our outreach programs" says Sorensen.

The national slowdown in health care is likely to persist, according to Sorensen. Along with that, there's a continued downward pressure on payments that they have received.

He says all of those things add up to some pretty significant revenue drops, reduced volumes, reduced payments, and reduction in their financial program.

"It's going to be very very different in 10 years than it is today," says Sorensen. "The pace of change is more rapid than anytime in my career . Those are big factors."

The hospital's board of directors looked at responses, and identified several options.

One option revolves around affiliations with a larger system -first with a change in control. That means that the ultimate decisions WILL NOT be made by a local board of directors, and will be located somewhere else.

The board then asked what it would take to retain local governance control, and they identified a number of strategic priorities. These deal with patient safety, improving patient care, prepare for population management- all of which requires a wide range of competencies.

Change one: The Regional West Physicians Clinic and Medical Center will be merged together. Sorensen says that will enable them to do other things more efficiently- specifically on how they can make purchases from pharmaceutical agents at lower costs.

Change two: Remove $20 million from expenses (8%)- which is consistent with what they're seeing in other places in the country.

Change three: Revising employee health care. It will be a little bit different, but strong plan. Sorensen says it will be a high deductibles to control costs.

Change four: Replacing information technology health records, which Sorensen says is a big task, but will save the hospitals millions.

Change five: The Board asked for Sorensen to figure out a recession plan. He will retire at the end of 2014. The hospital will recruit a President and Chief Operating Officer, with hopes that person will be on board by the middle of next year. That employee and Sorensen will work together to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Sorensen says that in the near future- there is no immediate jobs at risk.

"What I've told our employees is that our expectation is that they produce an honest days work for an honest days pay," says Sorensen. "If they do that; we will do everything we can do to protect their jobs. If they don't, we really can't afford to have them here."

However in the long term... things might change. He says that RWMC will change like every other hospital in the country. He doubts it will have 1,800 employees- it all depends what happens locally, regionally, and nationally with Health Care reform.

Sorensen notes that  the way things are going in health care,  20 to 30 percent of what is done is unnecessary. "So we cant go into the future forever doing things that don't need to be done."

"Honestly, our country can't sustain the system it has right now. It will bankrupt the country." says Sorensen. "Were already spending $3 trillion a year on health care. That's an enormous amount of money. We can either help to create our own future, or we can have someone else create it for us."

Many of these changes will need to be done by April 1, 2014, except forgetting the $20 million out of the hospitals expenses- which is expected to be done by the end of 2015, which will put them on a strong footing for the long term future.

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