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Luis Hospital Taking Multiple Financial Hits, CEO Tells Senators

July 16, 2008 — Juan F. Luis Hospital is stretched thin by its Water and Power Authority bills and $41 million in annual unpaid-for patient care, the hospital's chief executive officer told the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday.
CEO Gregory Calliste asked the Legislature for a bit more than the governor's budget recommendation. Gov. John deJongh Jr.'s proposed executive budget slates $27.5 million from the General Fund for Luis Hospital in 2009. The hospital expects to generate another $32 million from fees for its services and other sources, for a total 2009 operating budget of $59.5 million, Calliste said.
While the hospital has cut non-personnel operating costs by 6 percent, the hospital has been left in a bit of a bind by skyrocketing WAPA bills and increasing personnel costs, combined with the millions of dollars in uncompensated care. So hospital officials are requesting an additional $4 million to help with WAPA and another $5 million to help with personnel costs.
Personnel costs have increased partly because of renegotiated labor contracts, with starting nursing salaries going from $35,000 up to $45,000. But nurses are in short supply worldwide, and since the hospital cannot attract enough at the union salary, they are instead spending much more for temporary contract nurses. The average salary for a full time permanent registered nurse (RN) is about $55,000, but the temporary contract RNs cost the hospital about $115,000 each.
"Why are you incapable of raising nurse salaries to begin with so as to be competitive with the mainland, using the resources you use to pay contract nurses?" Sen. Louis P. Hill asked.
"Nurses salaries are negotiated by the Office of Collective Bargaining," Calliste replied.
"If you were able to hire your own nurses, not through NOPA, how would that affect you?" Hill asked. NOPA stands for "notice of personnel action" and is a shorthand way of referring to the government hiring system.
"If we had that ability, we would increase the starting salary, perhaps to $55,000, and we would still save a lot of money," Calliste said.
Hill and Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson suggested that legislation to allow the hospital to do its own hiring might help.
The governor submitted a bill in June reprogramming $24 million in unexpended funds, with nearly $9 million set aside for past-due WAPA bills, Nelson said. Before considering the Luis Hospital request for $4 million for WAPA bills, Nelson said he would like to clarify whether deJongh's bill would make the request unnecessary. He suggested that might make it easier for the Legislature to give the hospital a smaller sum to help with personnel costs.
No votes were taken. Present at various times were Nelson, Hill, Sens. Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Juan Figueroa-Serville, Neville James, Norman Jn Baptiste, James Weber III, Liston A. Davis and non-committee member Sen. Usie R. Richards.
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July 16, 2008 -- Juan F. Luis Hospital is stretched thin by its Water and Power Authority bills and $41 million in annual unpaid-for patient care, the hospital's chief executive officer told the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday.
CEO Gregory Calliste asked the Legislature for a bit more than the governor's budget recommendation. Gov. John deJongh Jr.'s proposed executive budget slates $27.5 million from the General Fund for Luis Hospital in 2009. The hospital expects to generate another $32 million from fees for its services and other sources, for a total 2009 operating budget of $59.5 million, Calliste said.
While the hospital has cut non-personnel operating costs by 6 percent, the hospital has been left in a bit of a bind by skyrocketing WAPA bills and increasing personnel costs, combined with the millions of dollars in uncompensated care. So hospital officials are requesting an additional $4 million to help with WAPA and another $5 million to help with personnel costs.
Personnel costs have increased partly because of renegotiated labor contracts, with starting nursing salaries going from $35,000 up to $45,000. But nurses are in short supply worldwide, and since the hospital cannot attract enough at the union salary, they are instead spending much more for temporary contract nurses. The average salary for a full time permanent registered nurse (RN) is about $55,000, but the temporary contract RNs cost the hospital about $115,000 each.
"Why are you incapable of raising nurse salaries to begin with so as to be competitive with the mainland, using the resources you use to pay contract nurses?" Sen. Louis P. Hill asked.
"Nurses salaries are negotiated by the Office of Collective Bargaining," Calliste replied.
"If you were able to hire your own nurses, not through NOPA, how would that affect you?" Hill asked. NOPA stands for "notice of personnel action" and is a shorthand way of referring to the government hiring system.
"If we had that ability, we would increase the starting salary, perhaps to $55,000, and we would still save a lot of money," Calliste said.
Hill and Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson suggested that legislation to allow the hospital to do its own hiring might help.
The governor submitted a bill in June reprogramming $24 million in unexpended funds, with nearly $9 million set aside for past-due WAPA bills, Nelson said. Before considering the Luis Hospital request for $4 million for WAPA bills, Nelson said he would like to clarify whether deJongh's bill would make the request unnecessary. He suggested that might make it easier for the Legislature to give the hospital a smaller sum to help with personnel costs.
No votes were taken. Present at various times were Nelson, Hill, Sens. Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Juan Figueroa-Serville, Neville James, Norman Jn Baptiste, James Weber III, Liston A. Davis and non-committee member Sen. Usie R. Richards.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.