Hospital Board discusses Foundation, Auxiliary, lower clinic prices
March 5, 2020
The Washakie County Hospital Board of Trustees opened their regular meeting Tuesday, Feb. 26, with Vice Chair Dean Carrell introducing new board member Bryony Volin.
Following this, Mary Jo Hake presented a history of the Washakie Hospital Foundation and described its mission and current activities. The Foundation was established in 1993. Its mission is to engage charitable resources that support and strengthen our hospital and the community and thus enhance the quality of life in the Big Horn Basin. Early fundraising efforts by Ruth Bower and others developed seed money, which Bower invested wisely. The Foundation received donations from many organizations. They continue to hold fundraising events – including nine or 10 in the past year. Last year the Foundation gave more than $25,000 to people in the Big Horn Basin, from the Foundation’s cancer fund and its general fund. The Foundation currently has nine volunteer members, and would welcome additional members.
Cathy Immesoete and Meg Stark then discussed the Washakie Hospital Auxiliary. The Auxiliary began in 1976 when early members dressed up as cowboys. With their guns, they pretended to “rob” local merchants for donations. Early efforts helped secure telephones and television sets in all patient rooms. Nowadays the Auxiliary continues their work in helping to brighten the hospital environment for patients and personnel. They do many things to help patients feel more comfortable during their stay.
Immesoete and Stark said the auxiliary is an all-volunteer organization. They hand-sew neck and belly pillows for patients. Every new baby born in the hospital brings home a hand-sewn bib and a few other cute things. The Auxiliary obtains all kinds of materials to improve patient comfort during various tests and procedures. They have also bought waiting room furniture.
Every year, the Auxiliary offers two $500 scholarships to young people considering medical careers – one each to a scholar from Worland and one from Ten Sleep.
Their primary means of fundraising are through the gift shop and the annual ice cream social. The Auxiliary currently has around 30 members.
Ladies and gentlemen potentially interested in joining the Auxiliary’s volunteer efforts are invited to attend their monthly meeting (Worland Elks Club, 5:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month; next meeting is March 17).
After these presentations, Chief Financial Officer Jennifer McMillan gave her report. Banner has had a pricing change. Until recently, prices in Banner’s western division were different in urban clinical facilities than they were in rural ones. Now prices have been standardized. The price change is not reflected in the current budget, but McMillan’s next report will reflect the new prices. Banner made this change in order to be ahead of the curve, in view of upcoming federal regulation as well as new rules concerning transparency in medical costs. Large organizations tend not to be agile, but Banner has a long history of working to get the jump on important new requirements. For example, Banner was an early proponent of patient electronic medical records, McMillan reported.
The hospital was not as busy in January as Banner had anticipated. McMillan reported that although the hospital’s costs exceeded the budget by 3%, or $80,000, its expenses were well-controlled. This allowed the hospital to absorb the negative income, and still come out on top. The situation was a bit different at the clinic. For the month, the clinic missed its budget by $6,000. However, there were 8% more clinic visits than had been expected. McMillan speculated that many clinic visits may have been for less acute concerns than might have been expected – so clinic income may have been lower.
McMillan brought some good news. She said that the clinic has been advocating since 2018 to get some price changes – to offer lower prices. Family practice rates at the Worland clinic are relatively high. This has had a negative impact on the numbers of patients seeking care. If folks are shopping around for the right clinic to which they may bring their families, price point may be an issue. Effective April 1, family practice visit charges will be lower. McMillan did not have the exact figures available, but said that patient visit charges would be dropping “significantly.” Banner hopes to get the word out about this before April 1.
Chief Executive Officer Jay Stallings then gave his report about several new hospital employees, including a new emergency room physician. Nurse Jessica Wilhelm was named employee of the month for her exemplary work in detecting a glitch in a patient’s heart monitoring equipment. Stallings also announced that a nuclear medicine mobile unit will come to the hospital once each month, greatly improving hospital capacity for medical imaging. Due diligence continues for a possible partnership between Banner Health and Wyoming Medical Center in Casper. Stallings said that he feels cautiously optimistic that the alliance will indeed be forged.