Catholic Healthcare West, San Francisco, finished its fiscal 2004 June 30 with $246 million in profit on $5.4 billion in revenue, up from $66 million in net income on $ 4.8 billion in revenue the year before, according to the yearly financial statement released by the not-for-profit. CHW operates 42 hospitals in Arizona, California and Nevada. It's the second year of positive margins for CHW. The 273% increase in profit stemmed largely from a dramatic increase in investment income in 2004. In 1999, the company embarked on a four-year turnaround to stem financial hemorrhaging, a plan that took longer than expected. In 2002, CHW reported a $55 million loss. The 2004 finish also included $35.5 million in profits from the $105.4 million sale of 15 medical office buildings. CHW is the latest system to report large gains in investment income (Sept. 20, p. 6).
Wholesale prices on the rise
Wholesale prices at acute-care hospitals rose 0.3% in September, bringing the increase in the Producer Price Index for the 12 months through September to 5.3%, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Wholesale hospital prices had fallen 0.2% in August, the first monthly drop since September 2003. Wholesale prices at physician offices fell 0.1% in September and were up 1.6% for the 12 months, according to the physician PPI. The PPI for the overall economy rose 0.1% in September, for a 3.3% increase in the 12-month period. The PPI attempts to measure the average change in prices received by producers.
Cullen faces more charges
Serial killer Charles Cullen was charged with six more murders and three attempted murders in Pennsylvania hospitals by Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin after a 10-month investigation. Cullen, 44, was charged with one murder and one attempted murder at 588-bed Lehigh Valley Hospital, Allentown, where he was employed as a nurse in the burn unit from Dec. 21, 1998, until April 28, 2000. He was charged with five murders and two attempted murders at 549-bed St. Luke's Hospital, Bethlehem, where he was employed from June 12, 2000, until June 4, 2002. There was also evidence that Cullen attempted to kill an 83-year-old patient at Liberty Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Allentown, in May 1998 with a lethal dose of insulin, but a five-year statute of limitations prevented charges, Martin said. Martin said he anticipated that Cullen would be brought to Lehigh County from New Jersey to answer the charges but a date had not been set. Cullen has confessed to killing dozens of patients at hospitals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. So far, he has pleaded guilty to 17 murders at two New Jersey hospitals and a Pennsylvania hospital, according to the Associated Press. In exchange for Cullen's promise to cooperate with investigations, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.
Magazine removes watch list
Consumer Reports removed its 2004 Nursing Home Watch List from its Web site and posted a message saying the list may "be based on incomplete data, due to processing problems encountered by its external project consultant." A spokeswoman said she wasn't ready to provide details on why it was removed. In September, Consumer Reports identified 1,717 nursing homes as having quality-of-care issues based on state inspections and enforcement actions. A spokeswoman from the American Health Care Association said many of the long-term-care advocacy group's members complained that the list was misleading. A September news release from the association said that of 15 Arizona facilities listed, two were closed-one for three years-and three others had received state ratings of excellent. National Quality Forum President and Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Kizer said he wasn't familiar with the list but said it's often difficult to come up with a foolproof methodology for rating nursing homes.
FDA clears first radio ID chip
The Food and Drug Administration cleared for marketing the first implantable radio frequency identification microchip for human use, an advance that essentially means patients can carry their health information wherever they go. The VeriChip Health Information Microtransponder System consists of the implantable chip, an inserter, a hand-held scanner and a secure database with a patient's approved healthcare information. The chip, about the size of a grain of rice, is inserted under the patient's skin in a minutes-long outpatient procedure with local anesthetic. It emits a radio frequency signal transmitting a unique 16-digit verification number, which can be captured by the scanner and used to access the secure database. The system's maker, Applied Digital, Delray Beach, Fla., has not disclosed a price, and a company spokesman said he couldn't say when marketing would begin. He said Applied Digital would market the scanners to hospitals ahead of the chips.
UnitedHealth profit up 47%
UnitedHealth Group, Minneapolis, reported a 47% increase in third-quarter net income thanks to membership gains, pricing and moderate medical-cost growth. The nation's largest health insurer earned $698 million, or $1.04 per share, in the three months ended Sept. 30, up from $476 million, or 77 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenue rose 36% to $9.86 billion. Enrollment rose 9% year over year to 20 million members, largely because of the acquisition of 1.5 million-member Oxford Health Plans. UnitedHealth boosted its full-year earnings projections by 5 cents per share to $3.92 per share and predicted 2005 earnings per share of $4.70 to $4.75.
Home health gets a fund bump
Home health agencies will receive a 2.3% increase in Medicare payments for 2005, the CMS announced. The increase is expected to give agencies an added $250 million in payments for the year. The CMS revised the way it measured inflation in setting the payment increase to reflect changing data sources, cost categories and price proxies. The changes were made to allow better tracking of price changes experienced by home health agencies, the CMS said.