River's Edge Update

Cardiac Rehab specialists work with a patient at River’s Edge Hospital and Clinic in St. Peter. (Photo courtesy of Paula Meskan)

St. Peter’s local hospital had an eye toward expanding services, but with numbers lower than hoped, the organization is pulling back to focus on its local operations.

River’s Edge Hospital’s CEO Paula Meskan announced that the River’s Edge Express Clinic located at Hilltop Hy-Vee in Mankato will be permanently closing at the end of the year. The last patient day will be Dec. 31.

River’s Edge Express opened in the Hilltop Hy-Vee location in October 2020. River’s Edge Hospital leases the clinic space from Hy-Vee. The clinic was open 7 days a week, providing care for those patients for skin irritations, insect bites and stings, eye irritations, ear infections, minor respiratory issues, seasonal allergies, colds and fevers, sports physicals and urinary tract infections. Meskan stated that the clinic was not meeting the budgeted, daily average number of patients to be seen at the express clinic in the 15 months the clinic has been open.

“We need to be good stewards of our finances, and unfortunately, the expenditures to get to that point outweighs the revenues generated,” Meskan said. “We had identified two key measures — the average number of patients per day and our goal to see patients daily. We started looking at them around the middle of the year, and we knew we weren’t meeting those goals, and as we continued to look, month over month, we had a loss, and it was really just a business decision (to close).”

The breakeven point identified for the clinic was seven patients per day, and while that amount was hit on some days, it wasn’t on many others. The clinic was meeting the goal, mostly, of seeing at least one patient daily, but there weren’t enough to boost the average count as needed.

The express clinic was something of an experiment for River’s Edge, which otherwise did not have an express care offering and had not before expanded to Mankato. Originally, the hospital had been approached by a group of providers who thought it would be a good fit for the Hilltop Hy-Vee space.

“We thought the spot was a great place; that Hy-Vee is a busy store,” Meskan said. “The minute clinics and some of those care providers with a limited number of services seemed to be successful.”

Having not worked out in the long run, Meskan intends to take some lessons from the trial.

“I think one of the things important for us is that we were outside of our normal range of the city limits of St. Peter,” she said. “We he the opportunity to provide service to patients that weren’t routine customers of River’s Edge in the last three years.”

She noted that the clinic saw up to 400 patients per quarter at the express clinic that hadn’t been to River’s Edge in the last three years (considered new patients in the hospital’s database).

“We’re hopeful that they had good care and were happy with the service, and we hope they’ll consider River’s Edge for future care,” Meskan said.

River’s Edge Hospital in St. Peter operates an Urgent Care, which provides all the services of an express clinic, plus more, thanks to specialized equipment. The Urgent Care Clinic is open noon to 7:30 p.m. Monday–Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday–Sunday. The hospital also has an emergency department open seven days a week, 24 hours a day. And it partners with Orthopedic Fracture Clinic, of Mankato, on surgeries in St. Peter.

Hospital finances

Since a difficult start to the year financially, the hospital has continued to make some gains, as more patients return to surgery, and record numbers were seen in the Emergency Department in August and September.

According to the hospital, 875 patients were seen in August in the Emergency Department, and 975 in September. That compares to about 450-500 patients seen per month earlier in 2021.

Meanwhile, as more people become comfortable going back to normal health care amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, that service has picked up significantly for River’s Edge since the beginning of the year. The elective surgeries are a major part of the hospital’s financial health.

The hospital is still operating at a negative margin for the year, thanks in large part to a negative 19% margin in the first two months of the year. Since that time, the hospital has been closing the gap, cutting unnecessary expenses and trying to build revenue in its core areas.

Meskan said there was another cash increase in September, but much of that was due to a Medicare adjustment, as the hospital had been underpaid in 2020. River’s Edge is now entering its busiest part of the year, which Meskan credits to people reaching deductibles on insurance and scheduled surgeries. Bed capacity at the St. Peter facility, like hospitals across the state, is nearly at its limit, which can cause problem but is also bringing in revenue.

Meskan has been the CEO for six months, having been promoted from her former chief nursing officer position, and she recently received a positive review from the Hospital Commission, which said she met or exceeded all expectations. The areas of focus the commission gave to her were all around broader and longer term CEO work, connecting with peers and developing more partnerships for the hospital.

Reach Regional Managing Editor Philip Weyhe at 507-931-8579 or follow him on Twitter @EditorPhilipWeyhe. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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