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Samaritan projects more revenue, more expenses in 2022

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | November 22, 2021 1:05 AM

MOSES LAKE — Samaritan Healthcare officials expect more people to need hospitalization in 2022, which will lead to more hospital use, but also more expenses. And a labor shortage is projected to add to those expenses.

Chief administrative officer Alex Town said Friday inpatient revenue (people who stay overnight or longer in the hospital) is expected to increase substantially, and so is outpatient revenue. Outpatients are treated and released the same day.

Increases in revenue also are projected for the Pioneer Way and Patton clinics.

Town said hospital officials kept thinking hospital use was going to decrease at some point during 2021, but it didn’t.

“This may be the new normal,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased hospital use, he said, but people also are seeking hospitalization for other health problems. The 2021-22 flu season is projected to be more severe than 2020-21.

And when patients get to the hospital, they’re sicker.

“Patients are coming with higher acuity disease,” Town said.

A surge in patients forced hospital officials to delay non-emergency surgeries, Town said. Due to the staffing shortages, employees had to be shifted from their usual duties to take care of people admitted to the hospital.

Gretchen Youngren, Samaritan’s director of development & communications, said in October the hospital had 65 open positions in patient and clinical care, including on-call, full-time and part-time, and hospital staff were recruiting for those. Ten employees at Samaritan Hospital lost their jobs due to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, she also said.

Meanwhile, some patients might have opted for surgery elsewhere, but their choices are limited, Town said, because other hospitals across the region also are suffering from staff shortages.

“You’ve got all that pent-up demand,” he said.

The hospital has added more physicians and more specialty care, and Moses Lake and the surrounding area are growing. Both of those factors also add to an increase in hospital and clinic use.

The growth comes with a downside.

“With increased revenue comes increased expenses to support that revenue,” Town said.

More patients mean the hospital and clinic must add staff to support the extra use, he said. The number of employees in 2022 is expected to be the equivalent of 657 full-time employees, up from the equivalent of 611 full-time employees in 2021. Youngren said in October Samaritan had just more than 700 employees total.

If Samaritan employees aren’t available, hospital officials must hire temporary staff, which is an expensive proposition.

Town said the normal rate of pay for temporary nurses is $60-$90 per hour. (That rate does not include benefits, which are paid by the contractor that employs them.)

“Now that (pay) rate is nearly double for the same individual,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The hospital could be eligible for federal funds paid to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but Town said whether the hospital will be paid, and how much Samaritan would receive if they are paid, is still unclear.

The hospital is projected to finish 2022 in the black, with a net income of $620,903 at year’s end.

The 2022 capital budget, which details capital expenditures, includes $44 million for hospital construction. That includes a one-time payment of $4.1 million.

Construction of the new Samaritan Hospital is scheduled to start in 2022.