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UVMC Well Positioned to Meet Challenges in 2009, But Cautious about Economic Environment

An uncertain economy is affecting Upper Valley Medical Center's (UVMC) health, but the system remains sound, reports Mike Maiberger, UVMC president and chief executive officer. 
"Our successes over the years has positioned us as well as possible to weather these times," he said.  "But, make no mistake, these are unprecedented times in our economy, and our health care system is not immune to the negative forces in the economy."

Like other businesses, UVMC is doing everything it can to reduce expenses while positioning itself financially for the future, Maiberger said.  "Our first priority is our patients, as always.  We are focused on minimizing the impact on our patients and on our workforce," he said.  UVMC remains Miami County's largest employer with more than 1,550 employees.  The economy is more challenging than ever for business leaders, particularly health care, with its 24-hour operations, he said.  Overall, for 2009 patient volumes at Upper Valley Medical Center are lower, particularly on outpatient elective services. 
At the same time, the not-for-profit system's uncompensated care bill is seeing a "significant" increase, Maiberger said.  That's due to people losing their jobs and insurance or just not having the money to spend on their health care.  The result is more people using the hospital emergency department as the primary source of heath care. 
UVMC has experienced a 7-percent increase in emergency department use over the past year.  In response, several measures have been taken, including the addition of a primary care physician to the department's minor care treatment area to help move patients through more quickly, Maiberger said.  The primary care physician oversees care being provided in that area  instead of that task being handled by the already busy emergency physicians. 
Behind the scenes, UVMC is trying to slow capital expenditures wherever feasible and looking at where operations can improve efficiencies and reduce costs as much as possible.  In conjunction with its partners at Premier Health Partners, the UVMC organization also is participating in Premier's organization-wide expense reduction efforts. Maiberger said the association with Premier Health Partners, which occurred just over a year ago, has allowed UVMC more flexibility in accessing specialty services not provided locally.  It also has given local residents more access to community health services, such as expanded wellness programs provided in conjunction with Premier Community Health, and the CareFinders physician referral network.  In coming months, UVMC will open an expansion to its behavioral health center which incorporates a new adult mental health unit and crisis center.  The expansion will bring all inpatient behavioral medicine services into one facility for greater efficiency in its mission of serving the behavioral health needs of the community. 
Maiberger, who took the reins as CEO of UVMC at the first of the year, said an "intense effort" has been made to communicate to employees and physicians about the struggling economy's impact on health care, Premier and UVMC.  The approach is in keeping with the system's philosophy of teamwork focused on maintaining quality health care services for the community.  "We've always known that we have a great team here -- a great work force and a great medical staff.  We feel we truly are a family," Maiberger said.  "We must not give an inch on the quality of the service that we provide, while at the same time meeting the challenges of this current economic environment.  That requires special people, and that's what we have here at UVMC.  We will get through this." 
"As with all companies in today's economy, much will be determined by how successful we are in the initiatives we're undertaking now to reduce expenses and to position ourselves for the future," Maiberger said.  "Of course we cannot control the economy, but we can do everything in our ability to not let anything happen to the quality of service that we provide or our culture."