The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

May 20, 2013

Sunbury hospital's operating margin among worst in state

By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item

— SUNBURY — Sunbury Community Hospital’s 2012 operating margin was among the worst in the state, according to a new report examining the fiscal health of the state’s hospitals.

The report, by the Pennsylvania Healthcare Cost Containment Council, examined 168 general acute-care hospitals across the state and reported that Sunbury Community Hospital’s 2012 operating margin — the percent of revenue remaining after all operating expenses are paid — was -32.83 percent. Only the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Philadelphia fared worse, with a -133 percent operating margin, according to the report.

Sunbury’s total margin — which takes into account operating costs and income from all other sources — was -18.30 percent, the report said.

In contrast, Geisinger Medical Center in Danville had an operating margin of 5.84 percent, and Evangelical Community Hospital’s operating margin was 8.16 percent for 2012, according to the report.

Hospitals need a healthy financial situation to upgrade and maintain key facilities, according to the report.

“Hospitals need to earn sufficient income to improve their facilities and equipment,” the report reads. “Such renovations are necessary to replace worn out or obsolete buildings and equipment, keep pace with changes in medical technology and meet a community’s changing health care needs.”

Sunbury hospital is doing just that, even with the negative margin, hospital spokesman Bruce Marion said in a statement.

“Sunbury Community Hospital provides quality care to patients while carefully managing fiscal operations,” he said. “We have made positive strides in facility improvements. Investments include a new emergency room, renovations to acute-care and telemetry patient units, advanced information technology systems, equipment and staff development programs.”

Marion noted improving satisfaction scores as proof the system is operating in an efficient and satisfactory manner.

“Patient, employee and physician satisfaction with our hospital has grown significantly over the past several years,” he said.

But the two other Valley hospitals are in better financial shape, according to the report. Geisinger’s total margin for 2012 was 7.13 percent and the Lewisburg hospital’s total margin was 10.26 percent.

Statewide, the average operating margin was 5.62 percent and the average total margin was 5.82 percent, according to the report.

Shamokin Area Community Hospital also had a negative operating margin, at -20.64 percent, but the report notes that Shamokin merged with Geisinger Medical Center during the 2012 fiscal year.

Sunbury Community Hospital has no plans for merging with any health system, Marion said.