Growing levels of uncompensated care and consecutive years of reduced government funding are exacerbating serious financial strains at Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas, Chief Executive Officer Bernard Wheatley testified during the hospital’s budget hearing before the Finance Committee Friday.
With combined patient reimbursements for Fiscal Year 2014 projected at $55.1 million, the hospital is short $32.7 million from what it needs to cover projected expenses through internally generated funds, Wheatley testified. Even with government funding, the hospital remains around $9.6 million short of operating expenses, he said.
A big part of the shortfall comes from uninsured patients receiving care, for which the hospital is never paid, he said. From Fiscal Year 2010 through May 31 of this year, the hospital provided $47.1 million in uncompensated care – an average of $12.9 million per year.
New federal information technology requirements are one area where the funding shortfall is reaching a crisis point, he said.
"For the past four fiscal years, (Schneider) has been requesting funding to save our failing IT infrastructure and to meet the requirements of meaningful use. However, our pleas have remained unanswered; our organization is at the point where it may not meet the required deadlines," he said.
Similar dynamics are putting the Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Clinic and Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center in similar dire straits, he said.
At the close of his testimony, Wheatley said he would not make a specific, numerical budget request, instead asking the Legislature to consider the proposed budget and the hospital’s actual needs and do what it could to increase funding.
The governor’s budget proposes a $21.3 million General Fund appropriation for the Schneider Hospital in FY14. It also anticipates $55.1 million in reimbursements for care and $4.3 million in Health Revolving Fund money, for a total budget of $80.7 million. Of that, $35.3 million is for wages and salaries; $8.7 million for employer benefit contributions; $15.2 million for supplies; $15.9 million in professional contracts and other services and charges; and $5.5 million for utilities.
The Health Department and V.I. Olympic Committee also presented their budgets to the Finance Committee on Friday.
Health Commissioner Darice Plaskett presented the department’s budget request of $46.1 million. Of that total, $16.4 million is to come from the General Fund; $6.4 million from the Miscellaneous Fund; $2.5 million from the Health Revolving Fund comprised of fees for services; $871,000 from other, nonappropriated funds; and $20 million, or 43 percent, in federal funds.
The General Fund appropriation will cover $9.3 million in wages and salaries and $3.3 million in employer Medicare, Social Security and pension contributions.
Out of the Miscellaneous Fund allocation, $2 million is for the Frederiksted Health Center; $1.7 million for St. Thomas East End Medical Center; $1.3 million for outstanding mental health care and other obligations; $632,000 for V.I. Perinatal Inc.; $305,000 for the Nurse Licensure Board; $250,000 for the Ryan White Title IV program; and $200,000 for HIV medication.
Federal funds include $6 million for wage and salaries; $2.2 million for employer benefit contributions; $6.8 million in supplies; $3.2 million in other services and charges; $1.6 million for local indirect costs of federal programs; and $83,000 for utilities.
Olympic Committee President Angel Morales requested $300,000 in territorial funding for the V.I. national sports teams to compete in the Olympics and in other regional and world sporting events. Along with federal funding and funding from sports associations and other sources, the committee anticipates a total budget of around $600,000 this year, Morales told the committee.
No votes were taken at the information gathering budget hearing.