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FREEHOLDERS WEIGH FISCAL ALTERNATIVES FOR BUTTONWOOD HOSPITAL

 

Garganio Says Operations To Cost Taxpayers $ Million to $4 Million in 2011

 

            Concerned about the rising cost of operating Buttonwood Hospital, Burlington County Freeholders today authorized a shared services agreement with the Burlington County Bridge Commission for assistance in exploring the future options outlined in a recently-completed financial report.

            Freeholder Director Bruce Garganio said a report provided by NW Financial Group of Trenton indicated that the hospital would continue t face revenue reductions and higher expenses, generating an operating loss between $3 million and $4 million in 2011, to be borne by taxpayers.  The report projects this number to exceed $4.5 million in 2012, and to continue increasing in future years.

            The consultant’s options included possibilities for raising revenue and decreasing expenses, which would involve outsourcing certain functions, leasing to a private operator, or outright selling the facility.

Buttonwood has operated at a loss for at least the last decade, with the lowest “not loss” recorded at $300,000 in 2005  

“Our immediate goals are to ensure that, no matter what we decide, that patient care remains at the highest quality, and that the public have every opportunity to weigh in,” said Garganio.  “We recognize our obligations to the patients and their families, and are sensitive to any impact on staff.”

            The report foresaw no possibility for returning Buttonwood to a “breakeven” operation, and recommended selling the facility, following the lead of other counties around the State with nursing homes, saying a sale could generate upwards of $1 million.

            Garganio said freeholders would not be in a position to make any decisions until additional financial and environmental impact studies, were prepared and evaluated by the freeholders and the public.

Buttonwood has 170 long-term care beds and a 30-bed psychiatric hospital, and a staff of 319.

Garganio said the bridge commission would be acting in its capacity as the county’s shared services coordinator, and would assist in the preparatio of reports and collection of data. 

             The report prepared by NW Financial indicates that actual total cost of running the facility in 2011 is expected to be $24 million, and projected to grow to $28 million by 2016.  Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements for patient care have been declining, and State share always has been subject to fluctuations. 

            “Our priority, first and foremost, is to cut costs and save tax dollars,” Garganio said.  “Whatever we ultimately do with Buttonwood will be consistent with those efforts and again, will ensure that the high level of care remains intact.”


 

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