ShareThis Page

Highlands Hospital securing its future

| Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Despite serving a high number of uninsured and underinsured patients, Connellsville's Highlands Hospital continues to modernize and update services.

The hospital has 71 beds, including 31 behavioral health beds.

John Andursky, chief financial officer, said the 22 percent to 24 percent of the population Highlands serves receives medical assistance "which doesn't cover the cost of care."

As a result, the hospital loses 8 cents for every dollar of net patient revenues received.

"Between 10 and 12 percent of our care is uncompensated: charity care or free care and bad debts," he said. "Some patients are underinsured. There are some uninsured patients who don't meet our guidelines for charity."

Andursky said the hospital will provide about $2.5 million in uncompensated care this year. "That's significant, because our net revenues are $24 million."

But Highlands has been proactive in the face of uncompensated services.

"We started a hospitalist program in January," Andursky said. "Our two hospitalists are physicians who are inpatient specialists. They have had a positive impact. They speed recovery. Patients are discharged to their primary care physicians who follow up with the hospitalist. The primary care physicians find it's more efficient to follow up. They are freed from making rounds. We have electronic records to keep everything updated. It has had a positive impact on patient volumes."

Highlands hopes to increase revenue with a new facility slated to open in September. The Highlands Hospital Autism Center, modeled on the Cleveland Clinic's program, will be regional and eventually serve up to 30 students.

"They will start with about eight students," Andursky said. The facility will operate 12 months a year. School districts will pay the tuition for their students to attend. The center has entered into a partnership with California University of Pennsylvania to train teachers.

Andursky said Highlands already has contracts with several school districts.

Grants also help Highlands expand.

The autism center has received funding from Connellsville Industrial Enterprises, Fayette County MH/MR, the state Department of Public Welfare through Sen. Richard Kasunic contributed to securing the land and constructing the building, the Wal-Mart Foundation and other sources, Andursky said.

The hospital itself received $600,000 from the federal government in 2009 through the late Rep. John Murtha. The money went toward emergency department improvements, including a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system to reduce infection risk.

One advantage Highlands has over many hospitals that serve a high percentage of uninsured patients, Andursky said, is "we have no bond debt."

Additional Information:

New facility

Highlands hopes to increase revenue with a new facility slated to open in September. The Highlands Hospital Autism Center, modeled on the Cleveland Clinic's program, will be regional and eventually serve up to 30 students.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.