Small Idaho hospital emerging from bankruptcy

The Arco hospital’s CEO says it has cut costs and boosted revenue.

CHALLIS MESSENGERAugust 13, 2013 

Lost Rivers Medical Center found $500,000 in cost savings and new revenue in recent months, Administrator and CEO Bradley Huerta has told Custer County commissioners.

The hospital has made progress in emerging from bankruptcy and past mismanagement, Huerta says, and for the first time, has a certified audit of its books.

Hospital staff members have endured furloughs, 32-hour weeks and salary cuts.

Since 2003, the hospital has been undercharging for various services and procedures it offers and has failed to collect full reimbursement amounts due from Medicare, Huerta says.

“I've never seen this level of mismanagement before,” Huerta told commissioners. “There's lots of room for improvement.”

This fall, the hospital district will ask patrons to pass a bond issue to retire debt and emerge from bankruptcy, he says. The district includes parts of Butte and Custer counties in Central Idaho.

Huerta says the hospital saved $136,000 in management costs by consolidating positions, rewriting job descriptions, hiring outside contractors and lowering salaries — making them consistent with salaries paid at similar-sized hospitals in American Falls, Burley and Soda Springs.

Lost Rivers Medical Center is working with a “self-pay” vendor and crafted a written policy for collecting hospital bills, which is expected to generate $85,000 per year.

The hospital is carrying $500,000 in uncollected debt on its books, he says.

Before Huerta took over as administrator more than two months ago, the hospital had no written policy on collecting bill payments from patients. As a result, he says, too much staff time and money was wasted in the collection process.

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