News

Hospital hikes rate 5 percent in 2005

A trip to Whidbey General Hospital will be more expensive next year.

The hospital’s Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a 5 percent rate increase to help recoup the losses suffered several years ago.

“I think it is necessary,” Chief Financial Officer Doug Bishop said of the rate increase. “We need to keep up with inflation and some costs that continue to climb.”

The cost for pharmaceuticals will climb by double digits this year, Bishop said.

The rate increase comes as the hospital’s board approved in principle the hospital’s 2005 operating budget. The $87.6 million budget is approximately 7 percent more than the $82 million budget in 2004.

Approximately half of the projected revenue will be lost to write-offs and bad debt. The hospital is budgeting for a 25 percent increase in charity care, meaning that it will provide approximately $950,000 in charity care next year.

In addition, the amount of bad debt is expected to increase 10.5 percent to $3.3 million in 2005.

The hospital is continuing its emergence from severe cuts in 2002. It will open Whidbey General North in February and its sleep center by May. Departments that saw cuts have kept their levels of service, but have not needed to add people, which allows for the new services to begin, Bishop said.

“The unknown variable is volume,” Bishop said.

If the hospital sees a steep decline in the number of patients it treats, the revenue will decline resulting in more cuts. The hospital has approximately 2,000 in-patients annually, Bishop said.

The hospital is budgeting for a $1.8 million profit next year, about $100,000 more than it’s made so far this year.

You can reach News-Times reporter Eric Berto at eberto@whidbeynewstimes.com

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