TMC Continues to Serve and Thrive, Despite Challenging Economic TImes

Board of Trustees Chairwoman Louise Francesconi, left, and TMC President and CEO Judy Rich talk about the ways TMC helps heal the community

Charity care at Tucson Medical Center doubled in 2011 as the non-profit hospital rallied to meet the growing needs of the community.

Due to the continued economic downturn and the impacts of state budget cuts, charity care increased from $3 million in 2010 to $6 million last year, said President and CEO Judy Rich at the annual report to the community.

Rich was joined by Louise Francesconi, chairwoman of the TMC Board of Trustees, in outlining the ways Tucson Medical Center cares for Southern Arizona.

“Our mission is to give back to the community and to provide care to people, regardless of their ability to pay,” said Francesconi.

Hospital leaders outline the community benefit in a public forum each year not only because of its tax-exempt status, she said, but because of a firm commitment to transparency.

Rich noted TMC distributed free bike helmets to children, provided free mammograms to low-income women, staffed health fairs and took the lead on a program designed to prod elementary school girls into lacing up their running shoes.

As a percent of net revenue, TMC’s community benefit increased from 7.2 percent in 2010 to 9.6 percent in 2011.

“There’s a compelling and pressing need within the community and one of the exciting things about being involved with TMC is that it steps up,” Francesconi said.

The economic doldrums have had other impacts as well, with the average hospital operating margin a negative .5 percent in the last quarter of 2011 statewide. TMC’s financial picture, however, remains healthy, finishing the year with a 2.6 percent operating margin, Rich said.

The audience had a chance to see a new video (  outlining the $110 million investment in the new Orthopaedic and Surgical Tower being constructed on the west campus. It will not only improve care in the community, viewers learned, but it is also putting Tucsonans to work.

Still, state budget cuts have remained a challenge. The state’s Medicaid program for the indigent only covers 67 percent of the actual cost of care, Rich noted, and cuts in payments and in coverage for childless adults translated into a reduction in reimbursements by more than $1 million a month.

The two leaders also highlighted TMC’s involvement in Arizona Connected Care, which is the Southern Arizona “accountable care organization” authorized under the 2010 federal health care reform law. The goal of the organization will be to measurably strengthen the quality of patient care while helping to control the escalating costs of healthcare.

“Really what took us to this decision to launch this new partnership is the belief that the future will not look like the past,” Rich said, noting the amount of money nationally being spent on healthcare is simply unsustainable.

But, she cautioned, “Without a real understanding of the goal, it’s very easy for people to think efficiency means you don’t get care.” Instead, she said, it means those with chronic diseases should get more attention and resources as they travel between visits to their doctor’s offices and specialists and therapists and the hospital.

“Traditionally, we had a reputation for taking care of people only in the hospital, so that’s why this is a huge effort for us.”

The two fielded questions from the audience, including one from John Carter, a former trustee, who asked how the transition to electronic medical records has been received.

Staff and physicians have reported it has been helpful to share information from the same page, so to speak, Rich said. And her biggest fear – that there would be a good deal of downtime – never materialized.

Pharmacist Robert Wolk shared that the ability to scan a barcode and match it with medication orders has headed off treatment errors. “It gives an extra level of safety for a patient,” he said.

Community member Jannie Cox lauded TMC’s commitment to fitness and wellness in the community, saying said she is struck by how many community events the hospital helps support. “It’s never been more important than it is now.”

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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