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1/22/2013 5:33:00 PM
Drop in patients and surgeries pushes hospital to financial brink
Download the surgery graph
Download the surgery graph

Marty Bachman

BLYTHE - Palo Verde Hospital CEO Peter Klune told the Healthcare District Board that a lack of patients and surgeries at the hospital was draining its finances and that unless they contracted with a surgical group that could provide more services than are currently being offered, the hospital would face serious financial implications.

Speaking to the board at their Jan. 16 meeting, Klune said that patient census at the hospital had dropped from 16 a day to 11 in the last three years, a 30 percent drop, and that inpatient and outpatient surgery are down almost 50 percent during that same period of time.

"The finances of this hospital are directly related to the volume of patients we see," Klune said. " In this hospital the two biggest entities we have are patient census and surgical volume."

Klune said that the hospital has lost a considerable amount of business due to AB109 realignment, which has reduced the prison population, which provided a large chunk of the hospital's profits. A prison hospital that will open in July in Stockton is expected to cut back business even more.

"What does that mean? Klune asked. "That means this is not going to get better. This is our new reality; our new reality is times have changed. We're no longer a 15 bed hospital, we're a 10-bed hospital, and we're no longer a hospital that does 150 surgeries a month. We're now doing 70-80 surgeries a month. Almost half of what we were. Why is this important? It's not important, it's critical. Surgery is where we make our profit....Surgery is where this hospital makes money."

Klune said that the hospital has been unable to recruit specialty doctors because of its notoriety.

"The results I contribute to geography," he said, "but also, all you have to do is Google it, I'm sorry, the reputation of this facility and this medical staff."

He said that the past board had been working to overcome these problems and that contracting with a medical or surgical group that would bring in surgical specialists was the answer to providing more surgeries and increasing the patient count, thus keeping the hospital open.

In November, the outgoing board voted to send out requests for proposals (RFP) in an attempt to find a surgical group to take over surgeries at the hospital but was met with a lawsuit filed by the medical staff, which resulted in a judge issuing a temporary restraining order preventing them from entering into a contract. The case is ongoing.

Board member Sandy Hudson had a proposal to rescind the RFPs on the meeting agenda but that item was tabled to the next meeting, which will be a special meeting held Tuesday (Jan. 22) at 5 p.m. at the Palo Verde Irrigation District Board Room, 180 W. 14th Ave. Klune's future as CEO with the hospital is also on the agenda as is the rescinding of the RFPs for exclusive transportation contracts.

Klune said that if the board were to suspend administration efforts toward seeking a surgery group, the hospital would not have the means to develop a surgery program as needed to replace the lost volume and avoid further financial turmoil.

Klune asked that the board hold a special meeting with management so they could have a better understanding of the critical nature of the hospital situation.

"We're losing money every month," he said. "We're in the middle of our busy season and it's not so busy."

The hospital's chief financial officer, Dennis Rutherford, repeated Klune's warning, stating that the hospital's financial outlook is not good.

Rutherford said that budgetary pressure from the state has lowered reimbursements and that the hospital was getting both less money and less volume.

"It's the perfect storm," he said. "It's not coming back."

He said that the hospital had $4.6 million on the books as of last November but that revenue continues to spiral downward. He said that the hospital had a 12.2 percent reduction in revenue, a $1.3 million reduction in net patient revenue on a year to date basis as compared to the prior year.

"It's important that we get beyond these beefs and we work with the medical staff on this because we need their help to achieve these goals," he said. "We won't make it without their help.."

Rutherford said that by the end of the fiscal year, June 30, the hospital would have only $650,000.

Download the Jan. 22 Palo Verde Healthcare District Board special meeting agenda

Related Stories:
• Emergency transport helicopters to be banned from landing at hospital
• TIMES EDITORIAL: District Attorney Paul Zellberbach owes Blythe more than an apology
• Medical Staff drops lawsuit against hospital board
• Healthcare District Board votes 3-2 to fire CEO Peter Klune
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• TIMES EDITORIAL: Palo Verde Hospital needs to be privatized
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• TIMES EDITORIAL: Let's get bids on hospital services and then make a decision
• Medical staff seeks to restrain Healthcare District Board from contracting out surgical services
• Healthcare District files lawsuit against hospital surgeon, Hossain Sahlolbei

Related Links:
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• Former DA warns board members of potential conflicts
• Hospital Board voids meeting citing Brown Act violations

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Article comment by: just me@just me

all well and good I'll tell you straight up .I don't go to board meetings because I cannot and will not ever tolerate your dear dr or Hudson.I have attended meetings where they made royal blanks out themselves and left a very bitter taste.Yes I do have other reasons for not liking your as far as transportation you take the plane and put your money in Trina's pocket I put mine in chopper.

Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Article comment by: I Wanna Say Again

This place is like a cesspool! Get some bleach and clean house! I mean get rid of everybody and start over with fresh bodies who don't have special interest or themselves to look after. I know this sounds too good to be true! I guess I was just dreaming...again!
Perhaps, I misspoke earlier about the management firm....I meant to say public relations. This junk needs to be spun in another direction to change the image and not only attract some medical needs customers/patients too. Celebrities and politicians use PR people all the time. If they can change the images of some of them, just think what they could do for a small town hospital! Actually funny when you think about it!

Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Article comment by: @ just me

Let me give you the real story about what was said by community members at the meeting. Mr. Robinson stated that he was taken to the hospital and when they called for the helicopter his girlfriend, Mary, left to the hospital in Palm Desert and that she beat the helicopter there. That means that the wait time was at least 45 minutes. Another person said that she went home got clothes,went to flying J and took care of some other things and left for the hospital they were transporting her family member to. She said she left the hospital when the helicopter was called for and beat them there. Both these statements were made during public comment well over an hour before the transport exclusive was discussed. Most of the other people that have been at meetings and spoke during public comment, along with the two mentioned have just asked for their choice of transportation to remain and not for an exclusive for Desert Air. The only non board members to speak for the exclusive has been Mrs. Webber and the CEO. There have been at least 10 different people and many of those being just ordinary people have spoken against it. Funny how stories can change when you get told the whole story.

Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Article comment by: @ I Wanna Say

The reputation of PVH's MEC will keep any really qualified group away....
Check with your out of town doctor and you will learn why!

Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Article comment by: I Wanna Say

This is just disgusting! The hate and discontent shown by EVERYONE turns my stomach. So, they will go broke and close the doors! What happened to patient care and caring about the community as a whole? That's how your going to retain business and increase your revenue. Remember, each and every person in this community is a "Potential CUSTOMER" of the hospital. Get a management firm who can turn the reputation around and you'll have a prosperous "Community Hospital!"

Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Article comment by: Boy oh boy

""""What does that mean? Klune asked. "That means this is not going to get better. This is our new reality our new reality is times have changed.""""

Yes Klune, times have changed so change with it and take a pay cut to help the hospital stay afloat or is that what you want, the hospital to go under while you make $$$$. Just sayin.

Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Article comment by: @ Carolyn

"this in direct conflict to the purpose of establishing a board to protect the community by giving us checks and balances". The rest of the community established the board made up of other than hudson/sartin/burton - TO DO JUST THAT!! Hello?? The new board members are NOT PROTECTING THE COMMUNITY, on the contrary - they ARE IMPLODING THE PVH - U can't see it being in your "clique" but the rest of us have said for many years that Dr S IS THE PROBLEM, U know why? The answer is the same as the CEO stated "We're losing money every month... We're in the middle of our busy season and it's not so busy." The 'REST' of the community can't have our surgery done here, figured out why? Dr S does NOT want our doctor to have surgery priveleges - IMAGINE THAT!! I want to have the surgery here, the PVH wants me to have the surgery here, BUT DR S does not want my surgeon @PVH! Whatís SO HARD TO UNDERSTAND?? Hudson canít manage her own finances without bankruptcy, nor can you for that matter. How can you & Ms Hudson possibly believe you know best for the rest of us? Itís Obvious what is going on: ignoring the attorneys advice, firing the ceo, protecting Dr S from being removed once and for all, not letting any services come into this area because Dr won't have his hands in it, letting Dr get away with (deleted) activities with regard to contracted employees wages, ETC ETC. It is obvious that these 3 new board members are taking us all down - thank you Hudson, Sartin & Burton. It is on the record, you will be given credit for the outcome of your agenda.

Site Administrator's note: A portion of this comment has been removed because it violated our Terms of use Agreement.

Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Article comment by: Crazy Town

It's not who you know in this town, it's who you (deleted) and I've never been very good at that. I base my opinion on my own personal experience concerning the hospital and unless someone I know was involved, I received less than sub-par treatment. That and the beyond professional behavior at other treatment facilities is why the hospital is losing money. Everyone knows what the problem is, there's just not enough on the side of the community to stop them. These people are not worried about the community as a whole, if this doesn't work out, they will move on to another small town to reek their havoc. None of them have anything to lose, it's a risk free business of screwing the tax payers out of as much money as they can. We need a hero. Stat.

Site Administrator's note: A portion of this comment has been removed because it violated our Terms of use Agreement.

Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Article comment by: Aj McKay

I'll say this as a valid point. Let the PVVT research lawsuits and malpractice at JFK and Eisenhower. Actually any so called reputable hospital. I bet they won't want to and for good reason. It would only prove that there are issues everywhere and not just Blythe. Thus leading to less interest. In fact look up the doctors history that delivers babies here. There is every reason to have newborns delivered here but people won't because of what they hear and opinion. Issues with staff is everywhere at every work place. Most of us do not favor some of the people we work with now. It is what it is. Again, I urge PVVT to get information on the other two hospitals mentioned. It's a valid point because these are the hospitals preferred. Trust me you will be shocked.

Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Article comment by: just me@phantom nose

Yes they did fire the ceo.And if they had a brain they would have fired the MEC.but to keep (deleted) plane up and flying,to keep the community from learning the truth about the fraud case,conflict of interest hid they had to get Klune out of the letting the want (B) surgeon do any kind of surgery he wants.People check with your medical insurence and make sure the hospital is covered for that procedure you will be surprised at what types of surgery can be done there and who can do them..with or with out the ceo the hospital will still fold .I know of people having surgery today that chose to go out.The winter visitors dont use this hospital when la paz regional is close and far better.And they can be taken there via helicopter if need.Danny I know Mary doesnt drive that fast and for sure couldnt offer you medical aid other than saying your gonna be alright.

Site Administrator's note: A portion of this comment has been removed because it violated our Terms of use Agreement. Personal attacks are not tolerated, and are a direct violation of these Terms of Use.

Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Article comment by: Phantom Nose

The twins found the perfect solution to the problem. They fired the messenger--the person who they were so high on three years ago.

Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Article comment by: just me@Aj MacKay

Aj if you have ever gone and have been miss diagnosed repeatedly .Then you would know why people choose to go else where.The paper has nothing to do with people not going there it's what they know personally about the hospital.Trust me the ER doctors arent any worse than the MEC.

Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Article comment by: Not Publicity

The Truth!

Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Article comment by: Aj McKay

Another article referring to the past board and comparing to the current. Did it ever occur that people may not want to have their children born here, basic medical care, or surgeries because of the bad publicity the hospital gets in our newspaper? May not be the only reason but still a reason that contributes.

Posted: Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Article comment by: Sell the Painkillers

They should start selling the painkillers and have BNET manage the distribution. A bunch of us need to re-up on the roxies.

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