published Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Erlanger Health System's financial losses narrow

An aerial image of the Erlanger in Chattanooga/Hamilton County
An aerial image of the Erlanger in Chattanooga/Hamilton County
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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Erlanger financials

July 2011 to February 2012

July $1.3 million loss

August $.1 million profit

September $1.3 million loss

October $2.1 million loss

November $3.1 million loss

December $3.9 million loss

January $2.1 million loss

February $.6 million loss

February financial numbers for Erlanger Health System weren't good, but better than expected and the least money the hospital has lost in a month since August.

The struggling hospital -- which has seen losses of more than $13 million in the first seven months of the fiscal year -- lost $638,599 in February, Chief Financial Officer Britt Tabor told the budget and finance committee Monday evening.

"I'm pleased to report a significant improvement over where we've been, but we still aren't where we need to be," Tabor said.

Low inpatient surgical numbers and a low number of helicopter patients continue to drive the losses, Tabor said. The hospital also spent $5.9 million in charity care in February.

However, if the hospital had not paid out about $750,000 in severance pay in February, it would have made a profit, Tabor noted.

After drastic drops in surgical numbers last fall and the exodus of CEO Jim Brexler, Erlanger implemented a labor management plan that included several rounds of layoffs and mandatory time off for certain employees.

The hospital cut six executive positions and 23 to 30 midlevel managers or directors since the beginning of January. Officials also have offered voluntary buyouts to certain staff and may have involuntary staff layoffs before April 1.

Tabor said March may be a difficult month because it will have additional severance payouts and the mandatory time off ended in February.

The hospital should at least break even or return to profitability in April, May and June, he said.

Interim CEO Charlesetta Woodard-Thompson said officials have not seen inpatient surgery numbers return as quickly as they hoped.

Committee members asked why helicopter patients numbers were down 7 percent compared to last year.

Tabor said Erlanger has seen competition from Nashville programs but is implementing marketing strategies. He told the committee he would provide a more comprehensive picture of the program at the next meeting.

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about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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