Losses at Baptist 

The hospital announced a financial turnaround, but now it's losing money again

The hospital announced a financial turnaround, but now it's losing money again

Baptist Hospital, which recently announced a remarkable financial turnaround, has lost more than $4 million in the last three months, sparking doubt within the local health care community about whether the hospital's rebound was greatly exaggerated.

Last month, at the close of the 2004 fiscal year, Saint Thomas Health Services, the umbrella health care organization that runs Saint Thomas and Baptist hospitals, announced that the 683-bed Baptist facility would return a $12 million profit in hospital operations and come close to breaking even, a dramatic improvement from the year before when the hospital lost $12 million. But for the last three months, the hospital has again been losing money.

Saint Thomas spokeswoman Rebecca Climer says that the $4 million figure is "probably correct" but says that, even still, the hospital is performing better than it did a year ago. "It's not up to the level we'd like it to perform in order to invest back into the facility, but it is still doing so much better than it was doing at this time last year," she says. The hospital still made its budget, she says.

Still, sources say that Saint Thomas Health Services CEO Tom Beeman probably will be forced to make deep cuts, including layoffs, in order to make Baptist profitable. Already, the hospital has laid off Jim Farris, the director of continuing medical education, and the question now is whether more layoffs will follow. Finally, Saint Thomas Health Services recently held a meeting announcing that many of the nurses at its hospitals would not be receiving raises.

One question that's abounding in local health care circles is whether, when HCA and BlueCross BlueShield resolved their long-running feud in March, Baptist lost BlueCross' enrollees to HCA's TriStar hospitals. Climer says it's too early to pinpoint that as a specific reason for Baptist's losses, but others say that it probably had some effect. As for Farris, she says that his position was no longer needed after the hospital restructured the continuing medical education program. She says it's not a reaction to the hospital's three-month downturn.

Meanwhile, nurses have grumbled to the Scene that Saint Thomas hospitals are short-staffed and that they were denied an across-the-board pay raise they had been expecting. Climer says that the hospital conducted a market study and gave raises only to nurses who were making less than the market average.

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