CHARLESTON, W.Va.¬†— CAMC¬†showed an improving financial picture through the first three months of the large hospital’s budget year, Charleston Area Medical Center’s Board of Trustees members learned Wednesday.

First quarter discharges were up 8 percent while emergency room visits increased by 29 percent, mainly because of flu activity, officials said.

“As we saw early in the quarter, patients with the flu increased and that helped us,” CAMC spokesman Dale Witte said. “Now we are transitioning from that to other things, emergency room visits are up and overall volume is up.”

CAMC had a difficult year in 2017. The hospital eliminated 290 positions in the second half of last year. Most of that was done by attrition. CAMC CEO Dave Ramsey, who was not available for comment Wednesday, has previously said no job cuts are planned in 2018 but planned to reduce the number of hires in non-patient care areas. CAMC has approximately 6,000 employees.

The hospital’s latest monthly financial report showed discharges for March were up 12 percent over last year with ER visits up by 8 percent. The information shows CAMC is doing fewer surgeries so far this year, down 5 percent from 2017. CAMC Memorial (-11 percent) and CAMC Teays Valley (-14 percent) have shown the most significant decreases in surgeries so far this year. CAMC is also reporting performing fewer heart catheterizations than it did at this time last year. CAMC’s total revenue is up less than one percent year-to-date with total expenses up 2.5 percent.

One area of significant improvement that’s helped the hospital’s bottom line is the decrease in number of deferrals. In 2016 CAMC was making about 300 deferrals a month because it couldn’t provide care for any number of reasons that number is now running about three dozen deferrals a month, Witte said.

“We want to be able to treat West Virginia patients and keep people as close to home as possible. So over the last few months we’ve been working on our internal processes to be more accessible to people in southern West Virginia and it’s really starting to pay off,” he said.

CAMC continues to be impacted by a payer mix that is based heavily on government providers that don’t reimburse the hospital at the full rate of care. In 2017, 83 percent of the large hospital’s patients were either covered by Medicare (48.8 percent), Medicaid (24.38 percent), or PEIA (8 percent). Only 17.4 percent of CAMC patients last year were covered by commercial insurers.

The board of trustees had an executive session Wednesday but made no announcements about any decisions that were made during the closed door session.

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