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MetroHealth plans to be self-supporting by 2016, revitalize main campus

MetroHealth CEO Dr. Akram Boutros Friday announced plans for the taxpayer-supported hospital to be completely self-supporting by 2016, as well as the launch of a countywide focus group to brainstorm ideas of how to overhaul the health system's aging main campus and reinvigorate its surrounding neighborhood on the West Side of Cleveland.

For the last several months, Boutros had hinted the health system was plotting a major transformation of its main headquarters in Cleveland. But on Friday, during what the system billed as an annual stakeholders meeting at the Cleveland Convention Center, he didn't unveil a single blueprint or cost estimate.

Boutros instead launched what he characterized as a community conversation to determine what the future of healthcare might look like in the county. He said he hopes the bulk of the new campus will be built by 2020.

His message? Dream big, Cuyahoga County.

“We want to be known as a healthcare system that is designed by the people, for the people,” Boutros told Crain's earlier this week. Boutros said 75% of MetroHealth's 3 million-square-foot campus has exceeded its useful life. He envisions a health system with fewer than 500 patient beds. (The system currently has 731 licensed beds.) Moreover, he said MetroHealth's iconic patient towers, which were battered during the polar vortex last winter, would be demolished. Other than that, Boutros was slim on details of what the campus might look like.

However, he did point to a few examples of facilities at other health systems—such as the IU Saxony Health Hospital in Indiana and the Children's Hospital of Alabama—with features that could be incorporated into MetroHealth's campus upgrade. He also spoke of better connecting the MetroHealth campus with the surrounding community.

Boutros also outlined MetroHealth's financial turnaround, which he said should allow the health system to wean itself off taxpayer support by 2016. Last year, $36 million—or about 4.2% of the health system's operating revenue—came from Cuyahoga County taxpayers. By 2016, Boutros believes that figure could drop to zero.

As Crain's first reported earlier this year, MetroHealth ended 2013 with a $19 million profit, exceeding its goal of $15 million. That's a particularly impressive number, Boutros said, because the health system posted a $6.5 million loss in the first quarter of 2013. Since then, MetroHealth has posted four consecutive quarters of positive net income.

For the first quarter of 2014, MetroHealth posted $4 million in income.

Boutros told Crain's the financial turnaround was due to a number of factors. For one, he said the health system reduced the cost per patient by 2.4% between 2011 and 2013, while healthcare costs increased 4% nationally. In addition, the health system's experimental Medicaid waiver program buoyed the system's books by expanding insurance coverage to almost 30,000 people in the county.

Boutros told Crain's earlier this year that the waiver program brought in about $40 million in new revenue to the health system's coffers. However, MetroHealth still provided $152 million worth of free care to county residents.

"MetroHealth plans to be self-supporting by 2016, revitalize main campus" originally appeared in Crain's Cleveland Business.

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