By Steve Campbell and staff
The hospital of choice and necessity for many Rappahannock residents, Warrenton’s Fauquier Hospital, last week laid off 32 employees — citing economic uncertainty and the impact of unemployment on patients.
The bad economy caused many area residents to delay health care decisions. Also, many of those who’ve lost jobs now lack health insurance, making them less likely to seek medical care, even through the hospital emergency room.
As a result, Fauquier Health sees fewer patients checking in for services and fewer elective outpatient procedures.
That lack of patients translates into lower operating revenues, which a spokeswoman said caused the hospital to post its first quarter loss “in a long time.”
On the other side of the ledger, expenses have increased dramatically.
The amount of total charity care (at cost) provided by the health system jumped from $4,255,313 in 2008 to $5,418,738 in 2009.
Anticipated cuts in Medicaid payments and severe winter weather add to the woes on the expense side.
“Even though we are a non-profit hospital, we must maintain a positive operating margin so that we can continue to serve our community for the long term,” said Fauquier Health President and Chief Executive Officer Rodger Baker.
“We’ve made a lot of savings, we just don’t know if it’s going to be enough because we don’t know what’s coming,” hospital spokesperson Robin Earl said.
In making the cuts, the hospital noted that only three of the eliminated positions dealt directly with patients. Twenty-three involved jobs in the hospital, two were with Fauquier Health Rehabilitation & Nursing Center; and seven were employed elsewhere in the health system.
The Warrenton hospital employs almost 1,200 people in full-time, part-time and on-call jobs. The layoffs represent about 1 percent of the total staff.
“We want to maintain high level of patient-centric care, because we think that is the key to our success,” Earl said. “We’re a small hospital and we have to find ways to distinguish ourselves and [providing high quality patient care] is what we do,” she said.
Rumors of a possible takeover of Fauquier Hospital by Nashville-based Hospital Corporation of America are not true, Earl said. A spokesman for HCA would neither confirm or deny whether the health care giant was in talks with the hospital.