Houston Healthcare CEO talks of industry’s challenges at chamber breakfast

jburk@macon.comOctober 25, 2012 

WARNER ROBINS -- Houston Healthcare’s chief executive officer painted a grim picture of the future of health care at a chamber-sponsored breakfast Thursday.

Chief Executive Officer Cary Martin touched on a pending physician shortage, decreasing Medicare reimbursements and a growing number of working uninsured during his talk at the Museum of Aviation to members of the Robins Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Projections show a national shortage of about 90,000 physicians by 2020, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. That is already beginning to be felt at local Med-Stops, which some days need to be closed due to staffing problems, Martin said.

Also, a number of physicians are retiring early, he said.

The projected physician shortage “is going to be devastating, particularly for your small and rural areas,” Martin said.

In addition, as Medicare cuts continue to deepen, more physicians are not participating in the program, Martin said.

He said, “The real fear I have is: What happens when we all retire, and I’ve got Medicare, and there are no physicians to take it?”

Houston Medical Center faces $670,000 in Medicare cuts in 2013, Martin said. Perry Hospital faces $963,000 in cuts.

“Fortunately, I think Perry’s going to survive that cut,” Martin said, noting that some smaller hospitals may not be so lucky.

Health-care professionals also are observing a growing number of the working uninsured, particularly at the Houston County Volunteer Medical Clinic. These people are typically uninsured because their companies no longer provide insurance or because their deductibles are very high, Martin said. Some are opting for only catastrophic insurance.

“All too often, they are the forgotten group,” Martin said.

Despite the circumstances, all is not bad, Martin said, comparing the health-care situation to the famous first line of Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities.”

Perry Hospital’s nine-bed expansion is expected to be finished in mid-December. Houston Medical Center has filed a certificate of need for a $40 million expansion. And Houston Healthcare recently acquired the Houston Mall, which will be used for expansion and relocation of services.

Martin also touted Houston Healthcare’s numerous awards. Thursday, the system announced that Houston Medical Center received the America’s 100 Best Hospitals Award for pulmonary care two years in a row from Healthgrades, a consumer resource. In addition, Perry Hospital received five stars for the quality of its pulmonary, gastrointestinal and critical care programs, according to a news release.

To contact writer Jennifer Burk, call 256-9705.

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