Tallahassee Business Journal July-August 2008Corridor Update
Compiled by Jason Dehart
SPOTLIGHTHospitals Struggle to Break Even
By Jason Dehart
Lawmakers spared two critical healthcare programs the axe this legislative session, but hospitals continue to face tough times according to an industry watchdog.
The Florida Hospital Association reported earlier in the session that the Florida House and Senate were expected to pass budget bills slashing health and human services funding by more than $1 billion. The actual reduction was much less than that, according to Florida Hospital Association spokesman Richard Rasmussen. A huge cut in Medicaid was also avoided, he says.
“We were able to avert a cut of $550 million in Medicaid reductions,” says Rasmussen. At the end of the session on May 2, healthcare coverage was preserved for Florida’s Medically Needy and Aged and Disabled programs. However, the final impact on hospitals is approximately $190 million in Medicaid rate reductions, Rasmussen says. “The silver lining is that 40,000 Florida residents looking at elimination of healthcare coverage in Medicaid were able to keep it,” he says. The FHA has noticed another disturbing trend. The FHA released a report in April indicating Florida’s hospitals “barely broke even” on operations two years ago. This was based on data provided by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. “The data clearly demonstrate that Florida’s hospitals are struggling and at rates higher than most hospitals nationwide,” says Wayne NeSmith, president of the FHA. Eighty – 45 percent of all hospitals in Florida – lost money on patient care services, and operating income was down 67 percent from the amount reported in 2005. Fifty-eight hospitals, or 31 percent, reported overall losses in 2006. Officials at Capital Regional Medical Center were not surprised by the FHA’s findings. “With the downturn in the economy, we are seeing an increase in uninsured patients while the cost to provide services is on the rise,” said Sharon Roush, CEO of CRMC. There is good news, on two fronts. “Our presidential candidates have healthcare plans on their agendas. This is not a local issue impacting Tallahassee or Florida alone,” Cole said. In a service-related development, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare began operating as a Provisional Level II Trauma center on May 1.
DOWNTOWNNew Green Program Tackles BusinessesA new pilot project is encouraging Tallahassee’s downtown businesses to recycle. Businesses located within an area bounded by Gaines, Tennessee, Gadsden and Bronough streets can register to participate. Businesses that join the program will get a 96-gallon mixed office paper recycling barrel that can be set outside for weekly pickup.
The recycling program is a joint venture between the Chamber, the Downtown Merchants and Business Association, the Downtown Improvement Authority and Highpoint Center.
Garbage Goes Green, TooThis past spring, the city’s Solid Waste Services administration building at 2727 Municipal Way received the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification from the United States Green Building Council. This is only the second municipal building in Florida, and the first in North Florida, to be recognized by the council. The building had some environmentally friendly upgrades built into it during a recent renovation, officials say, such as occupancy sensors on lights, programmable thermostats and low-mercury fluorescent lamps. “Earning this award is a true feather in the city’s ‘green’ cap,” says Mayor John Marks.
City Receives EPA GrantsTallahassee’s efforts to redevelop the Gaines Street corridor got a boost this past spring when it received $400,000 in “brownfield” assessment grants. The money is going to be used for analyzing the commercial corridor’s residual pollutants caused by historical industrialization. “This is one more step in support of the City Commission’s goal of revitalizing Gaines Street,” says Cynthia Barber, the city’s director of Environmental Policy and Energy Resources. “This testing will provide us with better information through obtaining data to develop appropriate strategies so that development can continue to occur.”