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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of December 5 - 11, 2001


Hospital celebrates first anniversary

First-year losses recorded at $1.5 million

Express Staff Writer

When Jon Moses, CEO of St. Lukeís Wood River Medical Center, spoke at an opening celebration for the new hospital south of Ketchum a year ago, he warned that "hospital survival is not a given."

The hospital celebrated its first anniversary Nov. 19, a date that marked one year of survival.

It was a year of reassuring successes and disconcerting financial realities.

Always, as at any hospital, new needs and new challenges constantly arise, Moses said while reflecting last week on the hospitalís first year. But "I think the future of this hospital is very bright."

One of the most important challenges will be reducing the hospitalís financial losses of $1.5 million. Hospital planners had expected the facility to break even on its $22 million budget during the first year.

Then thereís the challenge of determining which new services to offeróservices that must be needed by the community and must help the hospital stay financially viable.

And there are the unexpected challenges, like retaining staff in this expensive mountain resort area, a problem that has the hospital considering ways to promote affordable housing.

The hospital focuses heavily on diagnostics. Planners hope to have a new MRI unit installed by May. The hospital recently began providing vascular diagnostics, and is considering offering neuro-diagnostics, too.

"We diagnose a lot of conditions that we donít treat here," Moses said, but offering more diagnostic services is not a strategy for improving finances.

"What we want to do is advance out diagnostics and treatment capabilities as far as we can, but we donít want to go so far that we canít do them well," he said.

The challenge is determining which services work here and which donít. Orthopedics, for example, is the hospitalís bread and butter, Moses said, because "people here play hard."

The hospital may get another financial boost from a new adjacent office building, for which bulldozers were breaking ground last week. The building is expected to generate substantial revenue for St. Lukeís.

Moses said he expects hospital revenues to exceed losses by about $900,000 this year.

The financial challenge that Moses described was like a self-fulfilling prophecy: better revenues would allow the hospital to improve services, making it more likely to attract patients and earn more revenue.

Retaining a skilled staff in the Wood River Valley has been "frightening," Moses said, due to the high cost of living here. Moses recognizes that the hospital will have to spend extra to keep employees here, either through subsidies, help with buying a home or by actually building residences.

Moses said that last yearís financial shortfall was serious, but not as dire as it might appear because the hospital is debt-free and can rely on the stability of the larger St. Lukeís hospital network.

Moses wanted to clear up another misconception.

"There are a lot of people who think that we built this beautiful hospital, that it must be highly profitable, and some of it goes back to Boise," he said, but thatís not true. "All the money stays here."

Moses said even though the hospital has been open for only a year, it feels like much longer than that.

A staff party planned for Dec. 8 would be "much more than a holiday celebration," he said.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.