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Changes coming at Huggins Hospital

Transitional Care to be merged, 16 positions eliminated

September 22, 2011
WOLFEBORO — Cutbacks in federal and state funding of medical care are affecting all New Hampshire hospitals, including Huggins Hospital in Wolfeboro. The following annoucement was released this past Monday, Sept. 19 by Huggins Interim President Les MacLeod:

"In response to significant Federal and State payment reductions this coming year Huggins, along with hospitals throughout the state, will be undertaking a series of initiatives aimed at reducing costs and improving operational efficiencies. For Huggins Hospital, reductions in payments from the State alone could go as high as $4.3 million. Staff have been asked to review resource requirements at all levels of operation, and to make necessary adjustments without compromising the current high standards of service. Consolidations will take place in a number of areas along with appropriate resizing of departments where indicated. Plans are currently underway for realignments in the areas of administration, the business offices, materials management, food services, cardio-pulmonary, and transitional care. Service activity metrics are also being put into place in all departments. All current hospital services will continue to be provided, but at more efficient and sustainable levels.

"With an annual expenditure of some $60 million, even a modest percentage reduction in our expenditures will go a long way in helping us to address the growing need for charity care which is now at an annual level of over $3.6 million. It's not an easy response to the State's budget problems, but hospitals everywhere are in agreement that each will have to do its part in making the cost of health care more affordable and accessible for those in need.

"The most significant change will be transitioning the longer-term skilled nursing services from the Transitional Care Center into the new hospital. Going forward, longer-term skilled nursing care will be provided as an integral part of the new hospital's centralized nursing unit which now includes intensive and acute care. It is expected that the move will reduce the average skilled nursing census from its current level of eighteen to somewhere around nine. Year-round average census for the hospital will then go from eleven to just over twenty patients, which will increase the overall occupancy rate from 44 percent to about 80 percent, which is much more in line with what is considered to be an optimal level of operation.

"Plans for the use of vacated space include the possibilities of expanding home health and hospice, a new medical oncology service, and temporary use by the town of Wolfeboro. Staff reductions are estimated at 16 full-time equivalents (FTEs) from our current number of just over 380 FTEs. While this might not seem like a large number, each staff member has been a valued member of our hospital family and concerted efforts will be made through our Employee Assistance Program to find positions elsewhere in the hospital, fill attrition vacancies during a two and a half month transition period, and working with other skilled nursing facilities in the surrounding area to identify possible employment opportunities. It's, without question, the most difficult part of making decisions which involve staffing reductions and is one of our highest institutional priorities.

"As might be expected, the anticipated decreases in Federal and State payments has left hospitals around the State scurrying to find partnerships and affiliations which will help reduce operating costs through larger economies of scale. This is particularly true in the area of high volume purchasing which includes pharmaceuticals, energy, clinical supplies, utilities, service contracts, and the like. Huggins is actively exploring such relationships with other hospitals around the state, including the Dartmouth Healthcare Alliance, Catholic Medical Center, Lakes Region Hospital, Frisbie Memorial Hospital, Portsmouth Regional Hospital, and the Wentworth Douglass Hospital. Planning efforts are also taking place with members of the New Hampshire Rural Health Coalition to identify possible areas for collaborative relationships. A specific affiliation committee has been appointed by the hospital board for this purpose and it is anticipated that a number of opportunities will be identified through which participating institutions can improve and/or expand their services while still maintaining local independence.

"These are challenging times at virtually all levels of the economy local, state, national, and even global. Adverse effects ripple unavoidably from one level to the next. There'll be a lot going on here at Huggins during this next fiscal year in order to meet these economic uncertainties, and you can rest assured that our entire staff is up for the challenge." Les MacLeod, Interim President

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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