published Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Seven-digit shortfall has new Erlanger CEO Kevin Spiegel seeing red

The Erlanger Baroness campus.
The Erlanger Baroness campus.
Photo by Staff File Photo.

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FISCAL YEAR 2012

July — $1.8 million loss

Aug. — $2 million profit

Sept. — $906,000 loss

Oct. — $730,000 profit

Nov. — $726,527 profit

Dec. — $1.1 million loss

Jan. — $541,232 profit

Feb. — $2.5 million loss

March — $4.9 million loss

INDIGENT CARE

Nine months into the fiscal year, Erlanger has provided more than $56 million in uncompensated care, $6.5 million of which was provided in March.

A big, red, seven-digit number isn't the best welcome for a new CEO. But it's the greeting Erlanger's new top executive received at his first finance meeting Monday night.

In its worst month this fiscal year, Erlanger lost almost $5 million in March, Chief Financial Officer Britt Tabor told the hospital's Budget and Finance Committee. March's shortfall doubled year-to-date losses from where they were the previous month.

After nine months of fluctuating monthly financial reports, Erlanger's year-to-date losses now stand at $9.4 million. That's better than where the hospital was at this time last year -- about $17 million in the red -- but it's still not "where the hospital should be," said Tabor.

The hospital had originally budgeted to have reached $7 million in profits at this point in the year.

The meeting was the first for new CEO Kevin Spiegel, who arrived April 1. He struck an optimistic tone after the meeting, saying the hospital faced many challenges but that they were surmountable.

"Is it going to get better over time? Yes," he said. "But there's no switch to flip that makes it better at once. We are working on our priorities. The first thing for me has been to develop relationships, and that is going well."

He takes the helm from interim CEO Charlesetta Woodard-Thompson, who is on leave and whose future with the hospital is unclear.

"I wish I had better news tonight," Tabor said in opening remarks before clicking through a slide show that showed across-the-board volume losses in March.

The hospital typically sees a dip in the month of spring break, Tabor said -- but not this bad. What really hurt the hospital, Tabor explained, was a steep drop in patients with commercial insurance,

Tabor said he believed a large part of the drop in patients stemmed from all of the "noise" and "chatter" surrounding Erlanger during an intense period of flux that included the selection of a new CEO and Tennessee lawmakers' failed attempts to overhaul Erlanger's governance structure.

"Seeing all these headlines about Erlanger, I think people just wondered about the uncertainty around the hospital. That certainly impacted the volumes," Tabor said after the meeting. "With that said, I'm glad that a lot of that has been finalized, decisions have been made, and we're ready to move on. I think you'll see that reflected in the future months."

Prefacing with a joke that he hoped not to "jinx" the numbers, Tabor said April's financial reports are looking better, and that they will likely begin to stabilize and improve as the uncertainty surrounding the hospital begins to settle.

After the meeting, Spiegel said he believes that confidence for the hospital's months ahead is "palpable" among staff.

He said he would be outlining more details of a "re-energized strategy" next month.

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