JERSEY SHORE - Jersey Shore Hospital officials are not allowing a bump in the road in the way of an operating loss of $770,000 in the past fiscal year stop them from moving ahead with plans to grow and serve patients in the community.
Last fall it was revealed that the hospital failed to realize a profit margin for the first time since about 2007, in part due to taking on additional patients unable to pay for services.
"We had a loss," said hospital President and CEO Carey Plummer. "I don't think it's a sign of the economy. I think it's the influx of the gas industry and those who lack insurance."
Plummer explained that many of the big gas companies provide health coverage for their employees, but many subcontractors of the industry do not.
That's brought increasing numbers of uninsured people seeking care at the hospital.
Hospitals simply cannot refuse care, Plummer added.
Overall, more than $3 million in patient care was provided to those unable to pay - the highest it's ever been for the hospital.
Adding significantly to the bad debt were reductions in reimbursements for medical assistance, employee salary increases and pension liability adjustments caused by the stock market.
"We can't take another 2-percent cut in Medicare," he said.
Plummer noted that as one of the major employers in Jersey Shore, the hospital is continuing to improve patient care and better serve the community.
The opening in Lock Haven of a new physician practice clinic, Jersey Shore Medical Associates, 930 Bellefonte Ave., is just one sign of the progress.
More than 500 patients a month are making use of its services.
Beyond that the hospital in the past year recruited and hired four physicians and five physician assistants.
The past year also saw the introduction of the Information Technology Department and electronic medical records.
Plummer noted that radiology equipment has been upgraded.
Both the CAT Scan and mammogram have been improved to reduce the amount of radiation exposure to patients.
"We probably have the safest equipment around," he said.
With the completion in 2008 of the hospital's building project and addition, increasing numbers of patients are being served.
The new emergency room, for example, now sees about 1600 patients per month, a 25- to 30-percent increase from previous years.
In the midst of the financial challenges, Plummer noted that the hospital has maintained its employee staff of about 300 people.
He said plans are to recruit at least two family practice doctors and work with other hospitals to provide consulting specialty services in ear, nose and throat and urology medicine.
At the same time, the hospital will remain what it is - a community hospital, not a major medical center.
"We want to do what we can and do it well," he said.
Plummer said all hospitals continue to deal with questions surrounding the Affordable Care Act.
"Just give us rules to play by and we'll get there," he said.