Problems with collecting bills from patients continued to plague the publicly owned St. Bernard Parish Hospital for much of last year, according to a report released Monday by the state’s legislative auditor, though the hospital’s CEO says the lingering issues have since been largely resolved.
The 40-bed hospital generated $23.7 million in operating revenue in the 2013 fiscal year, its first full year of business, and spent $27.4 million in operating expenses.
But Wayne Landry, the facility’s interim CEO, noted that if 2013’s $3.9 million in depreciation costs are not factored in, the Chalmette hospital actually turned a slight profit.
“We’re very proud of it,” Landry said. “It’s a great audit.”
The audit covered the fiscal years 2012 and 2013 and was conducted by Silva Gurtner Abney, a New Orleans accounting firm.
The 113,000-square-foot publicly owned hospital, which opened in 2012, features an intensive care unit, four operating rooms, two endoscopy rooms and a 10-bed emergency room.
Landry said the hospital’s billing system “didn’t have any effect on the hospital’s ability to generate revenues — we were just a little slow in collecting them.”
Overall, patients owed about $10.8 million by the end of 2013, the audit said, largely because of faulty software.
Landry said the hospital was forced to bring in an outside company in late 2013 to help with billing patients. The audit showed that since then, cash collections have increased “significantly,” with about $5.2 million of the $10.8 million having arrived by the end of September.
The hospital, which has a staff of about 150 full-time employees, long needed to replace its electronic medical record system and accounting software, but it struggled to find the money.
The effort, estimated to cost about $4.2 million, is expected to be complete in the spring. In August, the five-member board that manages the hospital gained approval from the St. Bernard Parish Council to issue up to $7.8 million in bonds — to be paid back from future revenues — that would be used to hire two or three health care specialists and implement the new system.
Landry has been looking for new ways to drum up money for the hospital after parish voters overwhelmingly rejected a one-year property tax proposal earlier this year that would have generated an estimated $9 million to expand medical services.
Hospital officials wanted to use the one-year cash infusion to hire at least eight health care specialists and implement the billing and records system.
The parish built the $70 million hospital using a combination of federal disaster money, tax credits and state capital outlay funds. The hospital had about $55 million in outstanding long-term debt at the end of last year.
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.