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CCH releases information from Annual Report

November 2, 2018 GMT

Columbus Community Hospital President Mike Hansen has spent enough time in the health care industry to have a good idea what it takes to run a successful hospital.

In many ways, he said, it’s a team operation that starts from the ground up; having efficient staff at all levels of operation to not only keep the vessel afloat but ensuring it continues sailing smoothly.

It also takes an invested community like Columbus, he said, to maximize what the organization can accomplish. And no doubt, the city is invested in CCH’s success.

About 200 people volunteer their services at the facility every year in one way or another, and members of the CCH Board of Directors have committed themselves to serving the hospital for three, unpaid three-year terms.

“I tell them sometimes that their pay does double every year, though,” Hansen joked discussing the Board.

Because the independent, not-for-profit hospital is owned by the City of Columbus and its surrounding areas, Hansen said it’s important for the people who invest so much into making it successful aware of some of the positives happening at the facility.

Recently, CCH made available to the public its annual report highlighting the facility’s most recent fiscal year running from May 1, 2017, through April 30 of this year.

During that time frame, CCH had 2,679 inpatient admissions, 11,898 emergency visits, completed 3,569 outpatient procedures and 686 inpatient procedures.

The number of inpatient procedures may look low, and it is, but that’s a goal for the hospital.

“Our preference is for people to not have to be here, but if they are, we want to provide the best that we can to help them,” said Clark Lehr, Board Chairman Clark Lehr.

Hansen added that several years ago, hospital leaders shifted their focus about how to approach health care.

“We do what is counter intuitive to what hospitals used to do, which is try to get inpatients,” Hansen said. “We don’t want people to have to come to the hospital to be an inpatient, so we shifted our focus to prevention health and wellness. And three years ago that was the real impetus to build the Wellness Center.”

Hansen said that he and his staff were pleased with what the annual report showed in terms of running an efficient facility. He said that CCH’s operation is very effective, and that a great job is done in regard to enhancing revenue while simultaneously controlling expenses.

He added that the Board considers its fiduciary responsibility -- acting in the best interest of the people it serves -- a primary concern.

“We take that very seriously because our responsibility is to represent the community,” Lehr said. “And I know that in the best communities, they have great schools and medical excellence. And if Columbus is going to continue being successful, I know that we have to keep doing both of those things.”

Information contained in the report confirms what Lehr said about serving the community, not only in the medical capacity but also as an overall partner.

During the most recent fiscal year, CCH spent about $8.2 million in the greater Columbus community through traditional charity care, community health education and outreach, unpaid costs of public programs and health professional medical education, according to the report.

Strategic planning during fiscal year 2017-2018 also paved the way for new projects to take root within CCH, in particular a $35 million renovation project that will impact several areas.

Those include Surgical Services, Maternal Child Health and Radiology and result in several structural and departmental adjustments. Construction is expected to begin in 2019 and wrap up in 2021.

While the report shows many positives, Hansen said there’s always room for improvement, particularly in regard to behavioral health.

“Behavioral health is probably the biggest one that I can think of,” Hansen said of what needs enhancing. “Behavioral health is just a mess in Nebraska, and we have tried to advocate with the state and Sen. (Paul) Schumacher who is finishing up his term, who was very instrumental in trying to get some bills passed.

“But the state really doesn’t have any money to help us so we are taking it upon ourselves to create some services here in Columbus and collaborate with some other providers here.”

Some of these services may start in the form of outpatient psychiatric services. These services would receive subsequent evaluation and then CCH would be able to decide where to go from there, Hansen added.

Operating as an independent nonprofit certainly comes with its challenges in today’s financial climate. Hansen said he believes 40-45 similar types of operations are closing around the country every year. And while this is the case, Lehr said that CCH can remain successful by acting within its means.

“We definitely do not try to be who we can’t be,” Lehr said. “We don’t try to offer any service where we can’t provide the best care possible.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.