The Health Services Authority revealed on Wednesday that it made a $2.3 million profit in the last financial year, the first time the public hospital service has been in the black.
However, patients who have not paid for the services and care they received over the past 10 years still owe the hospital $40 million, the chairman of the authority’s board, Canover Watson said.
The hospital allows for about $12 million in bad debts annually, Mr. Watson said, adding that if those debts had been paid in the past 12 months, the health authority would have made $14.3 million in the 12 months leading up to 30 June.
Three years ago, the authority made an operating loss of $15 million.
Mr. Watson admitted that the Health Services Authority had been plagued by “turmoil and disarray” in past years and described its previous finances as the hospital’s “Achilles heel”.
In a press briefing outlining the health authority’s strategic five-year plan, Mr. Watson said there had been a variety of reasons for the poor financial state of the hospital over the years, including a revolving door of senior management and board members.
To turn its financial fortunes around, the hospital has increased corporate and community partnerships and received funds to buy equipment, streamlined the work of administrative and non-clinical staff, and introduced an electronic financial management and clinical information system which allows it to better track finances and patient revenue.
It also cut back on the use of telephones, electricity and fuel consumption, further lowering its operational expenses.
Mr. Watson said the hospital had also renegotiated contracts with vendors and partners to secure more competitive rates.
Hospital staff also began contributing 6 per cent to pension contributions, wage increases were deferred and a hiring freeze on non-clinical staff was introduced.
Mr. Watson said the hospital had also adjusted fees to “better match the cost of providing our services” and implemented “robust systems and effective measures to improve our collections”.
He said the authority had hired an external collections agency to improve payments for services from patients.
“We did not pursue any efficiencies or take any action that diminished the quality of care delivered to our patients,” Mr. Watson said.
The authority and its collection agency will continue to try to recoup bad debts that date back several years, CEO Lizzette Yearwood said.
She urged people with outstanding debts to pay what they owe, so that the money could be reinvested in health services and equipment.
Among the objectives laid out by the authority in its five-year plan is to decrease the number of cases of chronic non-communicable diseases like obesity, diabetes and cancer; to implement evidence-based practice in all areas of clinical care by 2015; to have collection match operating expenses by 2015; and to have at least 90 per cent of the population rate the health authority as satisfactory for high quality health care by 2015.