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CAMC plans to slash budget

Charleston Area Medical Center will cut its budget by more than $20 million for the 2013 fiscal year because of a drop in Medicare payments and the expiration of a federal reimbursement program.

Larry Hudson, the hospital system's chief financial officer, presented the budget at a Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday.

He said the hospital typically sees a $5 million increase in Medicare reimbursements each year. Next year, those reimbursements will decrease by $254,000.

The next fiscal year also will bring an end to the Upper Payment Limit program.

That 24-month program allows the hospital to pay a small tax on its net income. The state takes that money and sends it to the feds, who send back $4 for every dollar CAMC is taxed.

Because the program works retroactively, CAMC will receive 18 months worth of Upper Payment Limit dollars this year, about $15 million.

The hospital system will receive only six months of payments in 2013, at $4.5 million.

Hudson there is a chance the state may extend Upper Payment Limits, however.

He said he's heard state lawmakers like the program, which brought $100 million into the state last year.

"It's good for the economy," Hudson said.

Board members unanimously approved the budget on Wednesday, so the hospital will submit its budget to the state Health Care Authority on Nov. 2.

In other business, Hudson told board members admissions were down significantly at CAMC's Memorial Hospital in August.

Memorial saw 527 fewer emergency room visits last month compared to August 2012, and 246 fewer admissions.

Hudson said construction work and a nurse shortage were partially to blame for the losses. Forty beds at the hospital were closed off and on throughout the month. Dr. Glenn Crotty, CAMC's chief operating officer, said the hospital is in the process of converting all the beds on its cancer floor to private rooms.

Crotty said the hospital also is experiencing a short-term nursing shortage.

CAMC hires about 190 new nurses each year, he said. This year, the hospital system has hired 110.

"We're concerned about it," he said.

Crotty said there is currently a shortage of qualified nurses, caused by the closure of Mountain State University and the University of Charleston's two-year nursing program.

UC still has a four-year program, but Crotty said ending the two-year program has slowed the stream of nurses entering the workforce.

He said 25 nurses were headed to CAMC but some changed their minds and the rest did not pass their certification tests.

The shortage will be remedied next week, when a new batch of registered nurses complete their orientation at the hospital, Crotty said.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or zack.harold@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ZackHarold.


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