Grover C. Dils Medical Center in Caliente is doing well having experienced four positive financial years, according to hospital administrator Jason Bleak, as he reported to the County Commission meeting Feb. 3.
In making his report, Bleak said, “In the eight and-a-half years since I’ve been here we’ve seen some great successes at the hospital. We’ve also overcome some great challenges and realized some new opportunities that we face in the future.”
He illustrated the progress by noting a bill paid for parking lot paving in 2005 left the hospital with a check balance of $16,000. But in the years since, the hospital is much more stable and now has a restricted account balance to work with of over $1 million.
A theme Bleak seems to favor is, “I am pleased, but I’m not satisfied.” He said, “Our auditors have urged us to have at least 100 days of cash on hand (to handle a short term loss), and right now we can handle about 78 days, so we are still working on accomplishing our goal.”
He mentioned the hospital has upgraded their technology quite recently. A new CAT scan system was installed in 2013. “We are the only small, rural hospital in Nevada to have a 16-slide CT.”
In addition, the radiology studies at the hospital are now being digitized, meaning there is no longer any (X-ray) film. “Our lab studies are computerized too, and this past year, we implemented our electronic health record,” Bleak said. An expensive, but required process, he explained.
“We started in the hospital and within 90 days we met all the standards for meaningful use.” From there, the same system was applied to the clinics.
“This was a huge thing,” Bleak said, “cost us a ton of money, changed every department at the hospital, even housekeeping and laundry, everything is entered electronically.”
The Alamo Clinic is continuing to be used by the residents of the Pahranagat Valley to allow the clinic to be open three days a week on a consistent basis, with the doctors coming down from Caliente on a regular schedule.
A new philosophy at the hospital, Bleak said, has been to not look at working there as being “just a job,” but the beginning of a career. “No matter what level the job is within the facility, we’re trying to make those career opportunities,” he said. He referred to several employees who started in housekeeping, took the CNA class, earned their certificate, and some even having gone on to become nurses.
A countywide wellness program has been created, Bleak explained. “We seek to have four different challenges or competitions during the year where we try to encourage people to get more active in their physical activity, to promote better diet, and to promote better physical education for our community. We care not only for the people that are sick, but also seek to promote wellness in Lincoln County for those who are not sick.”
He said the Affordable Care Act is “a big bear that we’re wrestling with.” He called it a “foul ball,” and admitted he was really nervous of what to do if bad debt write-offs for the hospital began to escalate because people under the Affordable Care Act might be able to pay the premiums, but not pay the high deductible rates for medical care, “It’s care we give, and might not get reimbursed for,” he said.
Plans for 2014, possibly this summer, include starting an Inpatient Physical Therapy program. A new modular facility will be placed next to the hospital providing inpatient physical therapy. Bleak said patients with knee or hip replacements, orthopedic and/or other issues, will not have to go to St. George. Las Vegas, or Cedar City, “but can come back to us and we can take care of them in our facility. We have contracts with Lincoln Physical Therapy so that they can provide those services needed and we can keep people here at home,”
New televisions will be going into each of the long-term care rooms at the hospital this year, new concrete in the front of the hospital and some parking lot improvements.
There will also be a community needs assessment being done in 2014, Bleak said. “I plan to bring some of the key stakeholders of the hospital district to the communities for meetings to ask the locals what can we do to better serve the community?”
Building a new hospital is also hoped for, but Bleak said, “how and when we can consider that is a ways yet in the future.”