It’s been a year since the Board of Trustees of A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital signed an affiliation agreement making Fox part of Bassett Healthcare Network.
According to a media release from Bassett, the immediate goal was to stabilize Fox financially, following two consecutive years of multi-million dollar losses. The long-term goals were to improve services to patients and create a new model for health care in the future. The first year of the affiliation saw these goals met and more.
From the perspective of patients, the benefits began when Fox and Bassett made the decision to combine cancer programs in Oneonta under the Bassett Cancer Institute in January of 2010. In early 2011, once renovations to existing space are complete, cancer services will move from the Bassett complex on Associate Drive to expanded quarters at the FoxCare Center.
New and expanded orthopedic programs have developed throughout the first year at Fox and at Bassett’s Oneonta Specialty Services.
Recently, Bassett opened an orthopedic trauma clinic at FoxCare to support the college population’s need for immediate attention to injuries like fractures and severe strains.
In addition, Bassett’s cardiac services are now more tightly integrated with Fox allowing optimal management of patients experiencing heart attack symptoms and other emergencies.
The overall success of health care delivery to the community is evident in the reduction of patients leaving the region for specialty care, the release stated.
There are plans to expand Oneonta Surgical Associates (OSA) in the coming year. OSA joined the Bassett Physician Group in 2010, but maintains its practice at Fox Hospital and remains an anchor of surgical support for Fox.
The new year will also find Bassett physicians providing additional cancer services in Oneonta.
Beginning in January, Dr. Timothy Campbell, chief of Radiation Oncology at Bassett Medical Center will begin seeing patients needing radiation therapy at the FoxCare Center for Dr. Henry Keys who will retire from Fox on Dec. 31.
Coordination of medical information is underway to assure patients’ information is available at multiple sites of care and that providers can always be up to date in providing care.
According to the release, both organizations are making investments in electronic medical records and taking steps necessary to make sure their systems work effectively together.
Important to the longterm stability of Fox are the advantages of affiliating with a larger health system that can provide support for the complex business of health care.
Bassett’s experience and expertise in such areas as patient accounts management, negotiating third party payer rates, and the design and implementation of new employee medical benefits helped Fox avoid increased costs in excess of one million dollars in 2010.
According to the release, this cost savings combined with new sources of revenue resulting from the agreement between the two hospitals will allow Fox to end the year with a much-improved financial picture. After losses in 2008 and 2009, Fox is budgeting a small operating gain.
Over the past year, Fox was able to take in $1.2 million in new revenue as a result of increased laboratory services, more radiologic procedures, savings in purchasing and other similar benefits.
In addition, Fox received funding through a New York State HEAL grant obtained by Bassett that provided $2.5 million to reduce Fox Hospital’s debt and provide for longterm planning.
Although end of year results are not yet available, Fox expects to have a modest gain for 2010 when the HEAL grant is taken into consideration, the release stated.
“What’s most important to understand is that these new revenues are sustainable,” said Fox CEO John Remillard in the media release. “The changes brought about by the affiliation are not one-year achievements. They are lasting sources of revenue that provide Fox Hospital with a new foundation to build from. We are entering the New Year in a much better position than we’ve been in for quite some time.”
Fox Board of Trustees chairman Brian Burns said in the media release, “The affiliation with Bassett has achieved even more than we hoped in this first year, but the real winner is the Greater Oneonta community. We have been able to stabilize the hospital financially and not only preserve patient services, but grow them as well.”
While the benefits of the affiliation have exceeded most expectations, there is, according to the release, much work ahead.
“Health reform will have effects on both Fox and Bassett because of the impending changes in health care payments,” said Dr. William Streck, president of Bassett Healthcare Network in the media release. “So it is important that this stronger footing be obtained. We have built a new base, and while there is much more to be done, we have to find some significant satisfaction at both campuses in all that has been accomplished this year. Bassett Healthcare Network is a stronger organization as a result of the affiliation.”