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The answer appears to be yes, if one believes this snippet in a recent News-Sentinel story (http://www.news-sentinel.com/…/lutheran-health-ceo-investm…/): “Lutheran Health Network will have invested $100 million in 100 construction projects and 300 capital and equipment projects by the end of the year, according to [LHN] CEO Mike Poore.”

Even if there is a bit of hyperbole here, as we suspect, the investment by LHN-owner Community Health Network (CHS) is good news, even if tardy and if completion extends beyond December 31.

NICHE has long said that CHS-announced, unidentified projects amounting to $500 million would require front-loading–that is, most money should be spent in the first two years. That is especially true since LHN’s electronic medical record from Cerner will probably cost $120 million if all modules are purchased and installed and all employee training is accounted for. Thus, the LHN announcement amounts to a $220 million commitment (if not hard dollars spent) by New Year’s Day.

The article reports: “In a Thanksgiving message to employees, Poore said the projects include an orthopedics and sports medicine complex at Kosciusko Community Hospital, the addition of a second hybrid cath lab at Lutheran Hospital, an OP oncology addition at Dupont Hospital, NICU renovations at Lutheran and Dupont hospitals and conversion to new monitors system-wide…In addition, new hospital beds have been purchased and the remainder of the new beds will be delivered in early December. ‘Originally those items were to be delivered in 2018, 2019 and 2020. The delivery dates were moved up so all LHN hospitals should have their new beds by year end, Poore said.’”

The bottom line:
– NICHE believes this is a good first step. While $100 million is a bit vague in detail, and is about the cost of a new 100-bed hospital according to current per-bed costs, not enough construction detail was provided to account for the total. One supposes that some or most of the money involves undelivered orders or planned construction commitments.
– NICHE had complained that both bed and monitor orders needed to be made immediately and not spread over three years. LHN has announced their agreement. That is good, especially regarding the monitors, a long-time expensive and unfortunate purchase.
– We have seen that the administrative offices have been moved to the medical office building and that the emergency department will be expanded into that space. The ED was in much need of upgrade according to patients who have called NICHE. Good for LHN.
– What remains is even more important: staff. We hope next to hear that LHN has been successful in increasing staff numbers at all levels.
– As to the remaining equipment upgrades, bets are off until replacements arrive. Nurses have continued to report equipment shortages that should be helped, if not solved, by these orders.
– The problem, as NICHE has long said, stems from changes in CHS’s fortunes when it accumulated a mountain of debt following the purchase of 71 HMA hospitals in Florida. Cutting back on expenses at LHN, in retrospect, seems in error, especially when CHS has reported to local newspapers spending only $400 million over the last decade here. It was time to catch up, and it is all-around good news that the investment is being made. NICHE is late in congratulating LHN on this Thanksgiving news, but congratulations will be earned as the total reaches $100 million.