Opinion: Tahoe Forest Hospital District is making great strides | SierraSun.com

Opinion: Tahoe Forest Hospital District is making great strides

Karen Sessler, MD
Special to the Sun

Certain misconceptions about the hospital are still present in our community. I would like to offer some facts about the hospital’s contribution to the community and its financial stability.

Unlike Nevada or Placer counties, the town of Truckee, the Fire Protection District, the Public Utility District or any of the other special districts in our region, the hospital is not wholly supported by taxpayer or rate payer dollars.

Typically, 4 percent to 5 percent of Tahoe Forest Hospital revenue comes in the form of tax dollars while the remainder is earned like any other business through operations.

The Board of Directors respectfully limits the use of your taxpayer money to reserves, capital needs, bond debt and community health. The hospital stands on its own otherwise.

“Like other businesses in the High Sierra, Tahoe Forest Hospital’s bottom line has been impacted by the lack of snow during the past three years.”

The hospital, as a business, offers many services to the community it serves. Some are profitable and some are not, but are exceptionally important to the community such as Women’s Health and Obstetrics.

The Cancer Center is one component of the overall business of the hospital, and the Cancer Center treats everyone, regardless of ability to pay, wealthy or disadvantaged — no one has ever been turned away. The same is true of the Multi Specialty Clinics.

In addition, for the Fiscal Year 2014, TFHD absorbed $6.1 million in Charity Care and subsidized undercompensated care for Medicare patients.

The Board is well aware that we are a “community” hospital and as such works hard to support our wonderful physicians, clinical employees and staff in order to deliver excellent health care and an appropriate menu of services as affordably as we can.

In a recent Sierra Sun opinion column, “Tahoe Forest Hospital needs to focus on cutting costs,” while Dr. Jack Kashtan accurately reported that the Board approved a 5 percent increase for a small number of certain services, it was not reported that the Board also reduced prices for hip and knee replacements by 10 percent this next fiscal year.

Dr. Kashtan points out that the hospital “earned $2.8 million on operations last year,” and he is correct. That $2.8 million dollars represents a margin of 1.55 percent for a $180 million a year enterprise.

That is a tight margin by any standard and hardly a “windfall.” Like other businesses in the High Sierra, Tahoe Forest Hospital’s bottom line has been impacted by the lack of snow during the past three years.

In spite of that, TFHD maintains a bond rating of BBB- while few if any rural hospitals in the nation are rated at all.

Many changes are coming to Tahoe Forest Hospital District and all American hospitals. The Affordable Care Act shifts health care institutions from a reimbursement model based on the volume of care given to one based on the quality of care given.

Coupled with our commitment to meet the concerns of our constituents regarding cost of care, we believe we are making strides to become what the community wants and the government demands.

Dr. Karen Sessler is president of the Board of Directors for the Tahoe Forest Hospital District. She may be reached for comment at ksessler@tfhd.com.