L+M Healthcare continues upward trend

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New London — Lawrence + Memorial Hospital’s health — financial and otherwise — continued to improve this year.

Patrick Green, the hospital’s president and chief executive officer, delivered that news Thursday in a meeting with The Day’s editorial board, announcing that L+M Healthcare, which includes L+M Hospital, Westerly Hospital and the Visiting Nurse Association of Southeastern Connecticut, posted an operating margin of 3.5 percent in the 2018 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

Given total revenue of about $430 million, L+M Healthcare’s operating margin amounted to about $15 million.

“It’s good news, a sign of health,” Green said. “We made some significant progress last year, and this year we were close to plus-3.5 percent. ... It’s a testament to our physicians and staff.”

L+M Healthcare nearly broke even in fiscal 2017 after experiencing a deficit of $26 million, or 6 percent, in fiscal 2016, the year in which it affiliated with Yale New Haven Health. Deficits also occurred in the years immediately preceding the affiliation.

Some of L + M Healthcare’s other vital signs also continued to trend upward.

In fiscal 2018, the patient “census,” defined as the total number of patients, was up 5.6 percent over the previous year, while participation in employee-engagement surveys climbed from 44 percent to 72 percent, a sign of growing satisfaction among the workforce, according to Green.

“We’re establishing relationships and trust, which start with patients and the people who take care of those patients,” he said.

During the year, labor union contracts originally set to expire in 2019 were extended to 2022.

L+M Healthcare expanded its medical team this year, adding two surgeons and 22 primary care providers, including physicians, advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants. Specialists in the neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, pulmonary and vascular fields also have been added.

“We’ve been rebuilding the organization in a way,” Green said.

He attributed the turnaround to L+M Healthcare’s success in recruiting medical staff and, through its partnership with Yale New Haven Health, providing more specialized care that eliminates the need for patients to go elsewhere for treatment.

He said he regards L+M and Westerly hospitals, authorized for 230 and 44 inpatient beds, respectively, as “right-sized” for the areas they serve.

Asked about Hartford Healthcare’s plans for a $20 million health center in Stonington, Green said, “We’ve been here for over 100 years and we’re going to be here. We’re growing as much as our competition.”

He said long-range plans call for more ambulatory sites and a more robust outpatient program. Patients’ survey responses also indicate there’s interest in private rooms.

Ahead, Green said, “The regulatory environment is our biggest challenge, and that’s not going to change. We can’t control what happens to Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements."

L+M Healthcare has no plan to curtail the services it now provides, he said.



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