Rural Illinois hospital nears $15M turnaround, CFO says

Rural hospitals have not had the easiest time over the last few years, but Austin Frazier Jr., CFO of Dixon, Ill.-based Katherine Shaw Bethea Hospital, said they're working hard to turn things around following the effects of the pandemic.

"This year is really where we started to see the 'recoveries.' Right now we're heading towards about a $15 million turnaround from a negative income perspective to almost break even," Mr Frazier told Becker's. "Our organization is doing a lot of the things to put us on the right trajectory, but our cash reserves have been slowly dwindling due to rising expenses of labor structure as well as supply costs that we have to spend on medical supplies."

Following a 2% workforce reduction in April, forecasting continues to be a key initiative for KSB heading into 2024. "Making sure that we have an understanding of where our revenue is coming in at. Making sure that we know what expenses we can afford to make some adjustments to right now. In addition to that, we are reinstituting some of the financial disciplines that were around in a less chaotic year, and making sure that we have those things accounted for in totality," Mr. Frazier said. 

Along with forecasting, the hospital continues to hold daily huddles to discuss COVID-19 cases, service impacts, and any immediate needs for the different hospital departments. "The board is making sure that we're keeping all of the staffing issues on the radar for everybody to understand what the impact could be," Mr. Frazier said.

While KSB is not actively looking for partnerships or joint ventures, Mr. Frazier encourages CFOs to always keep a pulse on what's out there. Right now, he is focused on a strengthened financial 2024. "From an operations perspective, ensuring that our revenue cycle is high performing and high functioning, we are getting the volume return to our clinics and our hospital services — that is where the optimism comes into play." 

In light of all the pressures and financial challenges many hospitals and health systems have been faced with, Mr. Frazier advises CFOs to also check in on their colleagues. "Making sure that people are not just taking care of their own mental health, but taking a look at what their staff is doing as well and making sure that they are accommodating accordingly."

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