Houston Healthcare presents issues at chamber event

chwright@macon.comOctober 24, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- Cary Martin, CEO of Houston Healthcare Systems, presented an update of the hospital system Thursday at this month’s Eggs and Issues, a regular event for the Robins Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“This is not a political discussion,” Martin told the group. “This is a discussion of health care as we know it today.”

Martin explained the effects of the Affordable Care Act -- also known as Obamacare --a growing patient list, a shrinking workforce and changes in technology.

Fewer Medicaid subsidies will cost the hospital system $63.5 million over the next seven years, he said. Some cuts result from fewer federal subsidies under Obamacare. Another $12.5 million of cuts come from required sequestration cuts.

The hospital will gain about $32 million through the new insurance exchange, but that still leaves the hospital with a $31.5 million loss, Martin said.

“These are things that are going on all over the United States,” Martin said.

The hospital system also is fighting the challenges of a new international coding system of patient information, including diseases and symptoms, that will roll out in the U.S. in 2014. Martin said it will include far more codes than the current system and will require more personnel with advanced training.

Also, the hospital system is facing the same shortage of medical professionals as seen around the nation. Restraints on residency programs mean fewer physicians are graduating at a time the baby boomer generation needs more health care.

“We’re now at the age where it’s more maintenance than adventure,” Martin said.

Older physicians are finding the push towards electronic medical records daunting, and they either refuse to take part or they retire, he said.

Losing these more experienced doctors reduces the workforce and impacts the quality of care, he said.

“Their work ethic is different than the work ethic of a 25-year-old,” Martin said.

To balance these challenges, Martin said Houston Healthcare has been wise to expand. It has started a $42 million expansion and renovation of surgical suites -- the first phase of which is set to be complete by June 2014, built a new cardiac catheterization lab and expanded its Perry hospital to add nine beds.

“No big cuts (pave) the way to prosperity,” Martin said.

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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