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Fulton Medical Center CEO says hospital finances on rebound

FULTON, Mo. (KMIZ)

Over the past 18 months, Fulton Medical Center has paid off $3 million in debt through cutting spending, cleaning up old contracts and boosting revenue, CEO Mike Reece told ABC 17 News.

"The hospital is nowhere near closing," he said. "We have that $3 million IRS debt, that's an estimated fee, we actually are going to have over a million dollars in the bank in January."

The IRS debt is due this month but Reece said the hospital can get an extension to pay it back.

"We have a big IRS debt but we've got cash in the bank and considering we've paid $3 million in debt in the last 18 months, that $3 million in debt isn't that insurmountable a number," Reece said.

Reece said Fulton Medical Center has increased its revenue by about $200,000 a month and cut almost $200,000 in spending a month.

To help boost revenue, the hospital has increased its patient capacity in the 19-bed geriatric psych unit. The unit was previously capped to hold eight patients but now can hit full capacity and accept up to 19 patients. Reece said each bed can bring in about $2,000 a day.

He said the increased revenue will help the medical center get approved for a USDA-backed loan.

"The USDA, with our revenue, they don't have a problem giving us the loan," he said. "But until we get a settlement with the IRS on the back taxes, nobody is going to give us the money."

Fulton Medical Center is owned by NueHealth, a large, privately-held health care provider. University of Missouri Health Care owned a 35 percent stake until 2017, when it sold its interest back to NueHealth.

The company entered into a contract with EmpowerHMS in September 2017 amid dire warnings that Fulton Medical Center was in jeopardy of shutting down. NueHealth retains ownership today, though.

In the past year and a half, Reece said the hospital has eliminated 11 respiratory therapist positions, stopped using a third-party pharmacy service which cost about $9,000 a month and cut down on linen cleaning services by about $6,000 a month.

The idea to give community members the opportunity to invest in the hospital is still on the table but the hospital must first get its loans refinanced.

"The community leaders that have extra money should be investors in the hospital," Reece said. "They should be on the board, and they should help steer the direction of the hospital."

Reece said if the loans are refinanced, then the hospital could try to set up a Real Estate Investment Trust.

Fulton Mayor Lowe Cannell said he believes the hospital is going in the right direction.

"The biggest thing is that whoever owns it, if it's the folks that own it now, NueHealth, is that they continue to have a path to success," Cannell said." I think they do right now and they're continually making improvements."

Cannell said the city of Fulton and rural areas nearby would be greatly affected if the hospital had to shut down.

Residents would have to make the commute to emergency rooms in Columbia or Jefferson City.

"Every ER ride would be 30-plus minutes to get to Columbia," Reece said. "You would still have local caregivers but it's just primary caregivers."

The hospital is working to hire more doctors and to attract more patients. Reece said each primary care doctor can bring in $1 million to $2 million in revenue each year.

The medical center has two physicians and plans to hire 10 more primary care doctors in the next 12 months. Reece said the new physicians will specialize in areas such as women's health, OBGYN services and pediatrics.

Callaway / Mid-Missouri Business / News / Top Stories

Jasmine Ramirez

Jasmine Ramirez covers areas including Cole and Callaway counties and Jefferson City for ABC 17’s evening broadcasts.

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