While area hospitals continue to feel the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, River’s Edge CEO Paula Meskan reported that 2022 was a year of growing services, positive revenues, but also high staff turnover for the hospital.
Meskan sat down with members of the public at the Community Center on Tuesday to deliver her State of the Hospital report, outlining the condition of River’s Edge’s financial health and services entering the new year.
The River’s Edge CEO announced the hospital ended the year 2022 on a positive margin despite the stresses of the pandemic. A report from the River’s Edge Hospital Commission’s December meeting showed the hospital operating with $563,000 in excess revenues at the end of November.
“We are in a good spot having that positive margin when it’s actually a trend throughout the state, and the nation actually, that there are hospitals that are really struggling to maintain a positive bottom line,” said Meskan.
According to a September report by the American Hospital Association, more than half of hospitals were projected to have negative margins through 2022.
Part of River’s Edge’s revenues are owed to a rising number of inpatient and outpatient surgeries. As of November, 2022, River’s Edge had performed nearly 9% more surgeries than than at the same time in 2021.
Meskan said the hospital was offering more surgeries in the OrthoEdge joint replacement program, a partnership between River’s Edge Hospital and the Orthopaedic and Fracture Clinic, with addition of OFC spine surgeon Dr. Tom Jones.
River’s Edge further brought in Mankato Clinic Urologist Dr. Gavin Stormont, in partnership with the clinic. In adding another ophthalmologist to River’s Edge’s roll of providers, the hospital can now offer cataract surgeries every Wednesday of the month, said Meskan.
Patient turnaround after surgery is also quickening, the River’s Edge CEO added. Due to a change in what insurance companies will allow, Meskan said the hospital has decreased the number of days patients stay after inpatient surgery.
“We used to say you could have surgery and plan to stay three days and now you have surgery and you probably will go home tomorrow or the next day,” said Meskan.
The CEO said the hospital was accommodating these shorter stays by having nurses and care coordinators work patients before they come in for surgery to discuss what resources they will need at home upon discharge.
River’s Edge also recently debuted a tele-emergency system financed with a near $200,000 grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust’s Rural Healthcare Program.
The system allows River’s Edge staff to virtually communicate with a medical team that is on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. High definition cameras and microphones allow the tele-emergency virtual team to both see and hear everything that is taking place in the emergency room and provide additional guidance and consultation for Emergency Department nurses and providers in real-time. They can also provide support in the most difficult cases.
“In the event that we need to bounce something off of somebody or an extra set of eyes we have — it’s a doorbell essentially — we push this little doorbell and somebody on the other end over in South Dakota comes on in their control center and gives us exactly what we need either as a consultant or some support,” said Meskan.
River’s Edge is in a contract to use the telehealth emergency system for three years, at which point the hospital will reevaluate if they wish to continue the service. Meskan was optimistic about the system’s utility so far. In less than five minutes after going live, Meskan said emergency room staff used the service while treating a patient who had just come in suffering from cardiac arrest.
The hospital’s outlook isn’t all rosy, however. In the year 2022, Meskan reported that River’s Edge suffered a staff turnover rate of 27%. Much of that turnover was in nursing and staff members within their first year at River’s Edge. Meskan said the hospital’s current goal is to reduce the turnover rate to 20%.
“We have refocused and reshifted our managers and some of the tools we have been using. We do monthly rounding with our employees so every month managers are expected to go around and we try to collect the same information,” said Meskan. “We want to know what’s working well. Do they have the tools and equipment they need to do their work? Are there any systems that they would recommend changing or improving so that we can get their feedback and then really work at how we can bring things to light at the hospital.”