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Northwestern Memorial top Chicago hospital in revenue

Northwestern Memorial Hospital continued its reign as the Chicago area's biggest hospital, while Rush University Medical Center worked its way back to the No. 3 spot it lost last year, according to Crain's Chicago Business' annual ranking of the largest hospitals in the Chicago area.

Northwestern, which has been the biggest local hospital for at least a decade, reported net patient revenue of $1.3 billion in 2011, a 1.2 percent increase from a year earlier, Crain's new list shows.

The Streeterville giant also recorded $270.1 million in net income, or revenue in excess of expenses, more than any other hospital. The 740-bed medical center is also the largest hospital in the area, by the number of beds.

Crain's annual ranking is based on net patient revenue for the prior calendar year or fiscal year closest to Dec. 31. The 2012 list, published Monday, is based on 2011 figures.

Rush's net patient revenue rose 3.1 percent, to $1.0 billion in 2011, from 2010, propelling the Near West Side hospital past Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood.

Rush, which opened a new, butterfly-shaped patient tower in January, has been the third largest hospital in the area in six of the last seven years.

Rush's ranking reflects its “long-term mission to provide the very best care for our patients,” a spokesman said in an email.

Loyola sneaked past Rush in last year's list. The west suburban medical center's net patient revenue rose less than 1 percent, to $894.9 million in 2011, up from 2010.

Four hospitals saw their net patient revenue decline in 2011, led by the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System, which posted a 6.4 percent decrease, to $494.3 million in 2011, compared to 2010. Increases in charity care and bad debts and a decline in outpatient care contributed to the drop in revenue, said Mike Jonen, associate vice-president for enterprise strategy at the hospital.

Meanwhile, four hospitals recorded losses in 2011.

The biggest loss was suffered by Elmhurst Memorial Hospital, which lost $14.7 million even though revenue was virtually unchanged at $310.4 million.

In a statement, Elmhurst Memorial CEO W. Peter Daniels said the operating losses were expected, and relate to the non-cash depreciation charges for its new $450 million hospital building that opened in 2011.

The next largest loss belonged to Franciscan St. James Health in Chicago Heights, whose $8.6 million deficit was the result of fewer patients with private insurance, Chief Financial Officer Tom Senesac said.

As residents in the surrounding area have lost jobs, they've also lost their health insurance benefits, he noted.

“We continue to work on our costs,” he said, but next year “from our operating margin standpoint, we'll at best break even.”

The hospital relies on its corporate parent, Mishawaka, Ind.-based Franciscan Alliance Inc., to make up any shortfall.

St. Alexius, No. 19 on the list, reported $328.6 million in net patient revenue in 2011, up 5.8 percent from a year earlier.

The 248-bed hospital in Hoffman Estates is part of the Alexian Brothers Health System, which also includes the 365-bed Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village, about 10 miles east.

Traditionally, Alexian Brothers hospital, which ranks 14th, has had “the lion's share” of complex surgeries, said Mark Frey, president and chief executive officer of the Arlington Heights-based health care system.

But the health care systems has expanded St. Alexius' services by adding pediatric neurology, gynecological surgery and other treatments that appeal to the younger demographic in the far northwestern suburbs. St. Alexius also plans to open a $125 million women and children's pavilion in April.

“We've tried to put a lot more balance in our system,” he said.

Yet St. Alexius' profitability dipped by 19.7 percent in 2011. Mr. Frey blamed the economy for rising amounts of charity care, bad debt and Medicaid patients, which hurt profitability. Alexian Brothers hospital's net patient revenue rose just 1.3 percent, to $427.7 million in 2011.

Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora took the 23rd spot, with net patient revenue that grew 3.4 percent, to $299.8 million, in 2011. The 210-bed hospital is part of the health care system anchored by Rush University Medical Center.

The west suburban hospital's revenue has grown in part because its physicians' group has increased to more than 50 doctors over the last five years, which helped boost referrals to the hospital, said Gail Bumgarner, senior vice-president of strategy at the hospital.

Rush-Copley Health Center in southwest suburban Yorkville, which opened in 2008 and features an emergency room as well as various outpatient services, also has brought in business, she added.

Rush-Copley is also the smallest hospital in the top 25, based on the number of beds and inpatient days.

Crain's 2012 rankings also show:

• The 591-bed Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn had the highest daily occupancy rate, with 87.0 percent;

• The 622-bed Advocate Lutheran General Hospital had the lowest occupancy rate, at 55.0 percent. The Park Ridge hospital is also the second largest hospital in the area, based on beds.

• University of Chicago Medical Center employs 7,287 workers, almost 2,000 more employees than the next-largest employer, Northwestern.

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