Schneider Plans to Become Territory's Top Healthcare Choice

Schneider Regional Medical Center would become the first choice for healthcare for Virgin Islanders under an an ambitious strategic plan presented Wednesday to the hospital’s governing board by Chief Executive Officer Bernard Wheatley.

Wheatley presented the various areas of the plan, including making Schneider the territory’s health system of choice, improving its quality of care, improving its finances, developing a highly qualified and motivated staff, and building a state-of-the-art information technology structure.

“I have broad shoulders so a lot of this is on my head,” said Wheatley. But the targets of the strategic plan’s were picked by hospital staff and senior level officers.

“So we live and die by these targets,” Wheatley said.

The targets are “very aggressive,” according to Wheatley. In improving finances, for example, the hospital aims to register 100 percent of all its invoices within one business day and increase cash collections by one-third. A bulk of their information technology improvement have to be completed by early next year, according to the plan.

Wheatley said senior level officers will keep track of their timelines and report directly to him.

“It’s right there as road map, very clear, easy to manage,” said Board Chairman Cornell Williams about Wheatley’s presentation. “It’s very clear here what we mean by success.”

According to Wheatley, the Food and Drug Administration conducted an unannounced survey in early December and did not give the hospital any significant requirements for improvement. The hospital facilities are also in good standing with the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, and with the Waste Management Agency, with a brand new ramp toward an infectious waste disposal area on the brink of completion.

The hospital’s intensive care unit also got an infusion of new equipment, having just replaced its 20-year-old SpaceLab monitors with modern Phillips monitors.

The emergency room wait time has also been reduced significantly, Wheatley reported, from an average wait of 227 minutes in November to 198 in December. The hospital aims for a wait time of less than an hour, Wheatley said, closer to the 45-minute average wait in mainland hospitals.

The hospital has a full complement of full-time nurses, said Wheatley, with VISNA nurses receiving a 10 percent increase in salary, a $1.5 million cost to the hospital.

Key executive positions were filled, according to Wheatley, including the chief nursing officer post that will be taken in February by former Health Commissioner Darice Plaskett.

The V.I. Office of Management and Budget recently released $2.5 million for “general purposes” to the hospital, and paid out $1.5 million to the Water and Power Authority to go toward the hospital’s outstanding energy bills.

Finances

The hospital,s finances are slowly improving, according to Chief Financial Officer Fred Vitello.

Vitello said while his report reflects a $7 million gain for the hospital, that amount does not take into account funds that will be recognized in 2015. The hospital is actually budgeting for a $6 million loss in Fiscal Year 2015, he said, but that’s an $11-million improvement from last year’s figures.

The hospital’s $78 million in patient revenue is more than offset by its $106.5 million operating expenses, amounting to a $28.5 million loss. This figure was pared down to the $6 million loss Vitello reported earlier by a $22.4 million non-operating income.

“To turn an organization around financially, it doesn’t happen with just a few tweaks,” he said. “As we move forward in the next couple of years, we can move toward a break even.”

The ratio between government allotment and the actual salaries continue to be a problem, said Vitello. Monies from the government are normally $20- to $30-million less than salaries paid out, he said, so the balance of the amount comes out of the operations budget.

The hospital is also budgeting for a large amount of fulltime employees compared with the number the hospital actually has. In what he called a “culture change,” they are now involving hospital staff in determining their personnel department goals.

“It doesn’t happen overnight,” Vitello said, but “I believe we can do it.”

Present with Williams in the St. Thomas board room were board members Maria Tankenson-Hodge, Judith Richardson, Mulo Alwani, Miles Stair, and Greta Hart-Hyndman.

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