Unfortunately for Bayonne Medical Center, the most recent state report on hospitals in Hudson County is based on data from 2008 – a year when new management took over and began steering the hospital out of financial ruin.
The New Jersey 2009 Hospital Performance Report, listed BMC in the bottom third of hospitals in the state. The report, completed by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, analyzed how patients fared when treated in four areas: heart attack, pneumonia, surgical care, and heart failure.
But a year or two of investment in the hospital can make a big difference, and Dan Kane, chief executive officer of BMC, said it has.
“We’re doing much better than that now,” he said. “All of our core measures are mid-90 to 100.”
“We’re doing much better than that now. All of our core measures are mid 90 to 100.”
– Daniel Kane
The turnaround has not been easy. The new owners struggled to get all the key pieces in place, working out differences with its employee union, while taking on the powerful healthcare insurance industry.
Perhaps its most pressing battle has been to win back confidence of local residents, who watched the hospital decline in the years prior to the sale and then become inundated with threats from insurance companies whose terms would bankrupt the hospital again if existing contracts were not terminated.
Even in this challenging economy, the hospital managed to turn its finances around, so that instead of losing millions weekly as it had prior to the 2008 sale, the hospital has made a moderate profit each year since – and still managed to begin upgrading many of the services and equipment necessary to keep the hospital viable.
“Our hospital is profitable,” Kane said.
Real profit, he said – not some bookkeeping trick to make it look good.
“This is allowing us to make substantial capital investments, improving facility and equipment,” he said. “In 2009 alone, we made $3 million in upgrades to our hospital information system. We expect to have electronic medical records in the emergency department by the beginning of the summer.”
He said within three years the hospital’s whole medical records system should be electronic.
The hospital has also recently purchased a 16 slice CT (CAT) scanner, which provides more images for better evaluation, and is particularly useful for patients who are unable to use the more traditional MRI scanners. This will be used in the intensive care and other units in the hospital.
The hospital catheterization lab is currently under renovation, but will soon reopen with new equipment and new software.
“It is all state of the art,” he said.
Since this will be interchangeable with equipment recently upgraded in the vascular lab, the hospital will be able to handle increased volume in both areas, especially in evaluating for cardiac procedures.
In some areas, especially catheterization, volume doubled already in 2010, Kane said.
The expansion of these services has allowed the hospital to accomplish one of its major goals from last year, recruiting specialties from outside its usual service area. A new ambulatory surgery center is also under construction, and should be open by the summer.
The idea behind expanding some of these services is to keep patients from having to leave the BMC service area.
“Why would patients have to travel to places like New York, if we can provide the services here?” he said.
While the hospital is still in conflict with insurance carriers over what management sees as unfair reimbursements for services provided, Medicare payments are unchanged from the past.
“We accept all patients with all insurance,” Kane said. “Our goal is to have full access to care to all Bayonne residents. Medicare is not affected and for other insurance, out of network benefits still apply.”
Starting last year, BMC has made agreements with outside vendors to operate key services the hospital managed in the past, such as the Women’s Center on Broadway.
Horizon Family Health Care Center began operations in the old family center at the hospital, and hopes to become fully operational by March.
Last year, the hospital secured an agreement to reopen its psychiatric wing with a focus on providing for senior citizens – a unit that was closed prior to the purchase. Since then, the 15-bed unit has become well utilized. “We average three to five patients a day, and currently the unit is full,” Kane said.
The transitional care unit, which planned to close prior to the sale in 2008, is fully operational.
Unlike many hospitals around the state, BMC is filling its beds, and as of late February, it was caring for 140 inpatients.
Kane said the investments not only give patients more services, but also thrill doctors who want to work in a facility that has upgraded its equipment.
Last year, the hospital upgraded its Emergency Room.
“Waiting times are way down except when very busy,” Kane said. “Our goal is to have an empty waiting room.”
To this end, the hospital is building a new fast track area, replacing one that was logistically unsuited to the ER’s needs.
“We’re converting office space behind the ER,” he said.
In its battle to treat cancer, the hospital provides cancer screenings once a week at the hospital. This is a portable unit brought in to provide the service, Kane said, hoping that in the near future the hospital can provide a permanent unit.
A new 53,000 square foot medical office complex is planned for the front area of the hospital, a project that is going before the Bayonne Planning Board shortly.
The hospital also hopes to reinstitute a surgical program for obesity shortly, and BMC has brought on a new coordinator as part of plans to develop a stroke treatment center in the near future.
The hospital is also developing its own in house hospice unit, Kane said.