The last unaffiliated acute-care hospital in Columbus, Ohio, explored every avenue to stay in business, but this week it will cease its nearly century-old operations, officials announced.
A merger attempt, a bankruptcy filing, a reduction in staffed beds to 32 from 140, staff cuts and other cost reductions all failed to save Columbus Community Hospital.
"The problem was they couldn't get a handle on cash flow," said William Todd, outside counsel for the hospital. "There was too much pre-petition debt to ever get this out of bankruptcy. It was an almost insurmountable problem, and that was complicated by a slowdown in promptness of payment from Medicare and Medicaid."
In March 2000, the for-profit, physician-owned hospital signed a memorandum of understanding to merge with Columbus-based Mount Carmel Health System, but that fell through. Last August, its 32 physician-investors bought out the remaining 50% stake in Columbus Community of Cincinnati hospital management company CHM and its primary owner, Michael Kitchen. That same day the hospital filed for bankruptcy, owing $11.5 million in both secured and unsecured debts, Todd said.
The south side Columbus hospital was last profitable in 1997, when it earned $430,515 on total patient revenue of $48.6 million, according to Solucient, an Evanston, Ill.-based healthcare information company.
It began losing money after that, down $1.5 million in fiscal 1999, $2.25 million in 2000 and $1.5 million through the first eight months of fiscal 2001. The hospital suffered high management turnover, losing two chief executive officers within 13 months.
"We tried everything we could think of, and patients just didn't respond," said Todd, who said the hospital was heavily dependent on Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements, which represented 70% of revenue.
Todd said the hospital's 52 acute-care and subacute-care patients would be transferred to other facilities by May 25, and crosstown rival OhioHealth would hire many of its 400 employees.
On April 14, OhioHealth Corp., which owns and manages nine hospitals, announced it would phase out its Doctors Hospital North in the next 18 months, converting the acute-care facility to an outpatient center.