EDITORIAL: Out of the red

Bring up University Medical Center, and perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is a bottomless money pit. The region’s only public hospital has been a huge drain on county finances, losing hundreds of millions of dollars over the past several years.

In 2014, despite the elimination of almost 400 positions at the hospital, taxpayers provided UMC with $71 million to subsidize uncompensated and indigent care, along with $45 million in loans in order to make payroll.

But after years of bailing out the flailing hospital, it appears taxpayers are finally getting a break.

Review-Journal columnist Paul Harasim noted Sunday that UMC’s operations revenue, less expenses, was more than $32 million from July 2015 through April 2016. That’s a marked turnaround from July 2014-April 2015, when the hospital posted a $35 million loss.

The last four months of that losing period marked the beginning of Mason VanHouweling’s stint as the hospital’s CEO, when he faced the formidable task of crafting a method to turn around the perennial money mulcher. His plan is now producing positive results.

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, who in 2011 said the hospital might have to close, lauded the CEO for finding ways to increase UMC’s revenue. Among the reasons Mr. Harasim cited for the improvement: insurance providers increased the rate of reimbursement at UMC to that of other hospitals; hospital occupancy rose from 78 to 90 percent; heart and kidney procedures rose; and more physicians are using the hospital.

The Affordable Care Act was cited, as well, for dropping uncompensated care, but that’s just cost shifting of taxpayer obligations disguised as progress.

Regardless, it seems that much of what Mr. VanHouweling, UMC’s governing board and the hospital staff has done is working well. That’s good news. The challenge now is to keep it going.

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