Mercer hospital to keep cafeteria

Robert Blackford/Editor

Mercer County Hospital reported a loss of $68,000 for the month of October. "Much of this is from a decreasing in-patient volume," said CEO Tim Putnam. "The in-patient volume was down $50,000 this month. This year-to-date the hospital is down $30,000 from what we had budgeted."

Putnam said, "We had an increase in the percentage of Medicaid patients we saw in the month. We had two things happen that caused the loss. We had the increase in volume of Medicaid payments and Medicaid reduced its payments. Last year at this time Medicaid was paying 20 cents on the dollar. Last month our Medicaid reimbursement was 16 cents on the dollar."

Putnam added, "If the economy gets worse that will change. There is nothing we can do to change either one of those things. These are all dictated to us. We have no say in what they pay us."

Putnam added, "The $68,000 represents a poor month for us, but we know that we are being underpaid by Medicare, however Medicare will not be changing our rates until February."

Putnam said, "They will be sending us a check for $210,000 to make up for the low payments last year."


Putnam said, "The USDA offers federally backed loans to rural hospitals. We are going to take advantage of that to secure funding for our renovation project."


The board of directors has developed a plan to have space for a cafeteria that the hospital will be able to afford. It will cost the hospital an additional $380,000. "This will allow us to produce meals internally," said Putnam. The cafeteria space in the renovated hospital will be less than 1,000 square feet but functional.

The hospital's current cafeteria area is more than 4,000 square feet.

At its last meeting the board of directors discussed the possibility of closing the cafeteria and subcontracting meals from the nursing home since the two campuses are connected.

"I feel the hospital is set up well for adapting to the needs of the future," said Putnam.


Eleven contractors are interested in completing the hospital's renovations.

"We hope eight or nine will meet the qualification standards," said Putnam. "We hope they will all bid on the project making it a competitive bidding environment."

The hospital board agreed to give Christmas bonuses to employees similar to last year. Full time employees will receive $100 and part-time employees will receive $50 per person.

The book is closed on the 2008 audit. The Chargemaster review is taking place and auditor's recommendations will be addressed during it.