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February 19, 2013

CRMC CEO outlines issues facing industry

As the health care industry faces historic changes, Cullman Regional Medical Center chief executive officer Jim Weidner believes the local hospital is poised to meet the challenges.

Speaking at CRMC’s Business Leader Luncheon Friday, Weidner noted the quality of the hospital’s staff and physicians, modern facilities and technology, and leadership as the strengths of the institution.

“In reviewing 2012, a couple of things happened that are important for CRMC. Hartselle Medical Center closed and Decatur General and Parkway consolidated. Then Medicare designated CRMC as a sole community hospital,” Weidner said.

The designation by Medicare makes CRMC’s position in the region more prominent, but like most hospitals in Alabama the issues of Medicaid payments and emergency room visits for primary care remain troublesome.

“Alabama is one of the worst in the nation for reimbursement,” Weidner said. “The hospitals take it on the chin, which keeps the Medicaid payout rate low. We get 65 cents on the dollar. One in five Alabamians are on Medicaid. It’s an issue for the elected officials.”

CRMC’s emergency room sees about 130 patients per day, with nearly 40 arriving with no insurance. Weidner said the hospital tightened its belt and shifted some costs to counter the expense of free care through the emergency room.

He also noted that Good Samaritan Clinic is making a difference for the hospital and community. The clinic provides primary medical care for non-insured residents and is supported with various services from the hospital.

While CRMC has reduced some costs and vastly improved its revenue collection, Weidner said the hospital needs to get back to providing raises for employees. He said CRMC’s credit rating has also been updated to stable.

Nonetheless, Weidner said CRMC has excelled in bringing technology to the forefront of health care, noting that the hospital has won national awards in recent years.

“Blending technology with front-end patient care is the key to quality health care,” he said.

 He also said Alabama hospitals lead the nation in value-based purchasing for patients.

“Alabama hospitals rank No. 1 in the country for VBP. CRMC is third in Alabama,” Weidner said.

David Palmer may be contacted at dpalmer@cullmantimes.com or 256-734-2131, ext. 213.

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