St. E’s gears up to handle more charity cases
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
Humility of Mary Health Partners is prepared for a potential increase in charity care with the sale of Forum Health to for-profit Youngstown Ohio Hospital Co., a subsidiary of Community Health Systems.
“It worries me,” admitted Robert Shroder, HMHP president and chief executive officer, but he said HMHP has a contingency plan should more charity-care responsibilities come its way.
“These plans are not pretty, but the needs of the community will be met,” he said.
Shroder, who worked for the for-profit health-care system Quorum Health Resources, now a subsidiary of CHS, before coming to HMHP, said he knows both sides of the for-profit/nonprofit coin.
For-profits do charity care. When someone shows up at their emergency department, they receive treatment.
The difference between for-profits and nonprofits is that for-profits don’t go out and look for charity care, whereas HMHP’s mission actually includes improving the health of the community, specifically by seeking out and providing care for the poor and underserved, the chief executive said.
Forum’s Northside Medical Center on Gypsy Lane in Youngstown, near HMHP’s St. Elizabeth Health Center on Belmont Avenue, provides significant charity care.
It would be those patients who first come to the Northside emergency department for care who, if it is closed, might then seek care at St. Elizabeth because of proximity.
But Shroder said, it is less likely now, with CHS as the owner, that Northside would be closed than it was a few months ago when its closing was part of Forum’s secured creditors’ plan.
Shroder said HMHP charity care, or community benefit, in 2009 and 2008 was valued at $96 million and $70 million, respectively, which represents the charges for those services. Community benefit includes things such as free health screenings, but the vast majority is charity care, he added.
CHS is the biggest for-profit health-care company in the nation and will be a strong competitor in the Mahoning Valley, Shroder predicted.
“They do what they do very well, which is running and operating hospitals and keeping costs down so they are competitive,” he said. “I’m sure CHS believes it can make Forum Health profitable or it would not have bought it.”
“Here is what they taught us at Quorum: For-profits go after the right type of patient volume; that is those who have commercial insurance and Medicare, and try to minimize Medicaid and self-pay.
“Also, for-profits generally go after profitable service lines, such as surgery and cardiology, as opposed to medical-service lines such as pneumonia and congestive heart failure, which are more expensive to treat and less profitable,” Shroder said.
Given that, Shroder said HMHP is not changing its strategic plan to cope with CHS.
“We don’t concentrate on our competitors,” he said. “We do what we have to do to stay strong. We basically have a long-term plan, stick with it and implement it and move our organization forward in the direction we want to go.”
Finally, Shroder said, despite being competitors, HMHP would be “very willing to meet with CHS to see if there are things we can do together for the good of the community.”