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Rice Memorial Hospital makes financial gains in October

WILLMAR -- Rice Memorial Hospital posted a strong financial performance in October, and hospital officials said Friday they're optimistic the city-owned hospital will end the year in the black.

The hospital and its associated entities -- the Rice Care Center and Rice Home Medical -- netted close to $350,000 during October. The hospital accounted for $266,000 of that.

Financial figures from November are still being analyzed, but it looks as though November will be another profitable month, said Bill Fenske, chief financial officer at Rice.

The financial statements were reviewed Friday by the finance committee of the hospital's board of directors.

Fenske called it "very good news."

"All of the entities did well," he said.

December also is off to a positive start with a notable increase in patient volume, Fenske said.

"The house is just bursting right now," he said.

October was the first month that the impact of $3 million worth of budget cutbacks, implemented in August and September, showed up on the balance sheets.

The cuts included the termination of two outpatient programs for diabetes and congestive heart failure, and the layoff of 13 employees.

The resulting improvement in the hospital's financial status is a sign that the cutbacks were "the right thing to do," said Wayne Larson, chairman of the hospital board.

Rice still has a $194,000 deficit for the year, but October's strong showing did much to erase the red ink that began accumulating partway through the year. At one point, hospital officials feared losses would reach more than $1 million by the end of the year.

Statewide, the hospital industry has been shrinking, as fewer patients are admitted and reimbursement grows tighter.

It has been a struggle for Rice Hospital, which has undergone two serious rounds of budget-cutting in the past two years.

Some of the hospital's main financial indicators are starting to recover, however -- especially productivity, a measure of staffing levels against patient volume.

Productivity reached the industry benchmark this year, Fenske said. "We just have to hang in there and stay there."

He gave the credit for the improved financial picture to the hospital's department directors. "They're the ones that are making this happen," he said. "They're the ones making the changes and adjustments on a day-to-day basis."