Rutland Regional Medical Center is asking for what could be the largest rate increase the hospital has ever submitted to the Green Mountain Care Board, according to Claudio Fort, president and CEO.
Hospital finance staff expect a loss of nearly $25 million in the current fiscal year, which began in early October and ends in September, Fort said, adding that about $12 million in the loss comes from operations and approximately $12.5 million comes from the performance of the hospital’s investments.
“This (18%) may be the largest rate increase in the history of this hospital, somewhat unprecedented, but also, the circumstances we find ourselves in right now are unprecedented,” he said. said Tuesday.
Fort said nationwide health care is at a critical juncture.
“We are seeing – still seeing – increased demand and, I would say, more critically ill patients and acute issues than before the pandemic. I think we are still seeing the impact of delayed care and the social and mental health impacts of the pandemic on people,” he said.
Fort said area hospitals are at capacity but are still accepting patients who would have gone to a tertiary care center, such as Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, University of Vermont Medical Center or Albany Medical Center.
“But they can’t get their patients into those hospitals and so we’re doing surgeries, emergent type things, that would never have come to us,” he said.
“And the last part of this perfect storm is … the rapid onset of inflation, especially wage pressures, labor shortages, supply costs (of) drugs and pharmaceuticals,” said he declared. “We run a cancer care center and some of these drugs are the most expensive. … Then all the other household stuff, everybody takes care of it, we take care of fuel oil, food, all those basic supplies.
Fort said the proposed budget, even with the requested rate increase, does not add services or staff, but maintains access to services already provided.
Last year, RRMC, the state’s second-largest hospital, requested — and won — a rate increase of less than 4%, which Fort said was typical for the hospital. These requests, in the order of 3% to 4%, have generally been granted.
But Fort said RRMC staff asked the Green Mountain Care Board for an increase in March because they already saw financial pressures that the current proposed budget addresses. The request was rejected and the RRMC was asked to raise its concerns when proposing its next budget, he said.
Fort said members of the Green Mountain Care Board asked the RRMC in March what it would do if the mid-year rate increase was denied. Fort said he told the board that RRMC would consider cutting services.
Although the request was not accepted, no service was however cut. Fort said after a review, there did not appear to be any redundancies or non-essential services provided.
A hospital like Rutland has a special place in a community, according to Fort, especially as social pressures increase, and there is someone in the community for whom there is no clear guardian or responsible agency.
“Decompression, a place of last resort, is our emergency room. We don’t say “no” to anyone. We can not; we neither. This is our mission,” he said.
Fort said staff are doing their best, but pointed out that the emergency department doesn’t always have the resources to respond to some behavioral issues.
Additionally, hospital staff face more social issues and challenges, such as workplace violence and patients who are difficult to place or for whom community resources are unavailable, according to Fort.
Fort said there was hope the Green Mountain Care Board would support the RRMC’s request, but he said hospital staff feared there would be a high health cost to the community. if the RRMC had to reduce services or staff to survive.
He pointed out that there were no services offered “on the chopping block”.
“Health care is very expensive. It’s a big stressor for businesses, families and individuals. But I think it’s going to cost everyone more if we don’t fund these essential services now, because we’ve seen what happens when we don’t have access to some of these services during the pandemic. They don’t improve. They get bigger and worse and they get more expensive down the road,” he said.
Fort expressed his gratitude to Governor Phil Scott and his administration who supported the needs of hospitals during the worst of the pandemic, as well as currently.
RRMC representatives will make a presentation to the Green Mountain Care Board on August 22. Fort said the presentation is virtual and open to the public.
The Green Mountain Care Board usually makes a decision in mid-September.