Thayer County Commissioners heard how the hospital operated at a $564,000 loss in the last fiscal year as Thayer County Health Services CEO Joyce Beck and CFO Michael Pracheil presented the annual TCHS financial report during the regular commissioners meeting Nov. 17.
“This is a snapshot of the recession coming to Thayer County,” Pracheil explained. “We also had one less provider last year which means we saw fewer patients. Also, huge insurance changes to $5,000 and $7,000 high deductible health insurance policies accounted for people making alternate medical decisions.”
“People are refusing tests or admission to the hospital because they don’t have the cash,” Beck added. “It’s sad to watch – people need the care but feel they can’t afford it.”
Beck said the hospital really noticed the deficit swing when the ethanol plant closed and when Reinke’s and MetalQuest had layoffs. “With big job shifts like that, the people move away and we open a lot less charts,” she said. “It’s a delayed reaction, but we feel it.”
A general decline in the population also affects the county’s medical situation; early census results indicate Thayer County population numbers have dipped below 5,000.
“Bad debt plays a factor as well,” Beck continued. “We had $420,000 in bad debt last year, $85,000 in charity care.” Bad debt is when care the hospital has provided goes unpaid.
Finally, a $1.2 million depreciation on the new hospital building also accounts for part of the deficit. “If you take that out of the equation,” Beck explained, “it would look like we made $800,000.”
In other words, she said, for daily operations, the hospital is operating efficiently. “We have approximately $2.3 million in cash and in the bank and we are owed $2.2 million from services we have provided.”
On a bright health note for county citizens, Pracheil said the flu season virtually missed Thayer County last year. “The vaccine did what it was supposed to do, which meant patient numbers were down, but it also meant we were fortunate in that the flu just kind of floated right over us.”