Warren County has the highest percentage of uninsured residents in the state.
As reported by previous River Park owner Capella Health, this was an $8 million loss problem for our hospital.
Needed relief was offered via the proposed Insure TN bill that Gov. Haslam promoted. Two of our state legislators opposed this bill and helped to defeat it. This could have contributed to the decision for Capella Health to sell River Park and the hospitals in Sparta, Smithville, and Woodbury.
Also, the two hospitals in Manchester merged to better cope with this issue. Across Tennessee, nine (9) hospitals closed as a result of uninsured patients not being covered. Fortunately for Warren County, the new owner of River Park is Saint Thomas. This article will detail the benefits of Saint Thomas to River Park.
In the most recent fiscal year ending June 30, St. Thomas River Park sustained $16.5 million in uncompensated care (uninsured and under-insured) with Warren County having a state-leading 22 percent uninsured rate.
Saint Thomas, being a nonprofit organization, avoids paying property taxes, but that is a small portion of the above loss. There are other profitability challenges associated with rural hospitals. Rural counties have a much higher percentage of people on Medicare and Medicaid than metro areas. Citizens have a lower education level (something we are making progress on) and have generally have poorer health habits (smoking, drinking, being overweight). These factors do reduce hospital profitability.
St. Thomas River Park CEO Dale Humphrey has been here about one year and is totally committed to making the hospital a profitable, high-quality, and compassionate hospital in spite of the challenges. He is making hard-earned gains.
His career background is particularly well suited for solving needs at River Park. Dale is originally from Clarksville. He is a graduate of Belmont University with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a master’s degree from Austin Peay State University in health services administration.
Dale and wife, Gloria, have been married 20 years and have two children – Rob, 17, and Mary, 14. Dale started his hospital career with Baptist Hospital in Nashville (now Saint Thomas-Midtown) as a physician liaison director. After two years, Dale moved on to Healthtrust’s Nashville Memorial (now Skyline Medical Center) as director of medical staff development.
After one year, Columbia HCA bought Memorial and moved Dale to Franklin to be the regional network coordinator for the Columbia Health Care Network. There Dale developed an Independent Physician Association contracting with multiple doctors serving multiple hospitals (including River Park).
Then Dale began a 15-plus year tenure with Community Health Systems when he moved to Gateway Medical Center in Clarksville where he was director of business development and physician relations, a position he held for 10 years. Dale then was moved to Regional Hospital of Jackson as its COO. He also held the interim title of CEO. Dale also did a brief assignment as interim CEO at Volunteer Community Hospital in Martin.
The last move for CHS was as CEO of Henderson County Community Hospital in Lexington, Tennessee for three years. Dale left Henderson County to come to River Park as CEO. He was attracted to River Park due to the purchase by Saint Thomas, a career competitor he always held in high esteem.
He and his wife both had prior experience with McMinnville and Warren County and found that very attractive.
Dale knew River Park was a newer facility, with known physician expertise, and a quality medical staff. Dale’s career impression of Saint Thomas was “quality and compassion.” Saint Thomas operates nine (9) hospitals in Tennessee and is part of Ascension, the largest not-for-profit health system in the U.S.
Saint Thomas Medical Partners includes 524 physicians in 32 counties and 95 locations. Saint Thomas’ mission statement is “Rooted in the loving ministry of Jesus as healer, we commit ourselves to serving all persons with special attention to those who are poor and vulnerable. Our Catholic health ministry is dedicated to spiritually centered, holistic care which sustains and improves the health of individuals and communities. We are advocates for a compassionate and just society through our actions and our words.”
A key update is that since his time here, Saint Thomas has invested over $5.5 million at River Park to upgrade several areas. This one-year commitment is still in progress. Included is a new $3 million plus computer conversion of their electronic medical records. Also being done is a renovation of their Family Birth Unit, parking lot repaving, a new ultra sound machine, a new laser, three new EKG machines, a new blood analyzer, new X-ray rooms. In addition to these investments which will drive additional revenues, actions taken by Dale and Saint Thomas include:
• Trimming hospital upper management staff; sharing a CFO and other managers with other Saint Thomas hospitals. They believe in less executive staff and more bed-side caregivers.
• Growing River Park’s geriatric psychiatry unit and inpatient rehab unit and continuing to offer a broad range of general, orthopedic and joint replacement surgery, urologic, and gynecologic surgery in addition to colonoscopies and ERCPs. There is also a full-service lab, diagnostic and cardiac imaging department, sleep studies lab, outpatient physical therapy, and cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation. They are working to grow volumes in most of these areas.
• Starting April 19, River Park has partnered with American Physician Partners of Brentwood to staff the ER doctors. This new relationship has already resulted in reduced complaints. APP is closely monitoring reactions and opinions of the doctors, nurses, hospital staff, and patients.
• Also starting April 19, River Park has partnered with Saint Thomas Medical Partners as the new Hospitalist Group. They are the physicians covering all patients admitted to the hospital. This relationship is also expected to boost patient service and satisfaction.
• Physician recruitment of needed primary care and specialist physicians is also a huge priority.
How is Saint Thomas River Park doing? Dale reports that each quarter of the current fiscal year, to end June 30, the hospital has improved financially. River Park has several personnel openings for RNs, respiratory therapist, physical therapists. River Park has an on-site human resources department – phone number 815-4103. Interested applicants can call this number, personally visit the HR department, and/or access such employment opportunities by going on-line at http://careers.sthealth.com/
Dale reports that general surgeon Jeff Lawhon, MD began practicing in McMinnville again starting April 24. Adam Franson, MD, orthopedic surgeon, has joined Saint Thomas Medical Partners and River Park is recruiting for four (4) more primary care physicians, as well as another orthopedic surgeon.
Even with trying times, Saint Thomas has been extremely generous with charitable donations over the past year. Donations totaling $120,000 have been made with notable ones being:
• $50,000 - Beersheba Springs Medical Center
• $25,000 - Children’s Advocacy Center
• $15,000 - CHEER Mental Health
• $10,000 - Citizens for Progress – Advanced Robotics Project
• $10,000 - Warren County Senior Center
• $10,000 - Hope Center
A key community service will occur on Saturday, June 10, when Saint Thomas Health will hold a medical mission at Warren County High School. Offered from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. for anyone needing health services in the Upper Cumberland Region, they will offer a wide variety of free services, including medical care, dental care, foot care, vision care, behavioral health care, diabetes and cholesterol screenings, tests, and health checks at no cost.
It is possible the federal government with the expected redoing of the Affordable Health Care Act will directly address the huge cost of uninsureds. If Insure TN gets a second look, that could be a major relief to our hospital. Help is needed.
Citizens of Warren County need to utilize the services of River Park Hospital whenever possible. We need to help Dale Humphrey succeed at keeping Saint Thomas River Park Hospital a continuing vital part of the community.
BRAC thanks Dale and Saint Thomas for offering an outstanding array of medical services.