Financial documents help explain independent, not-for-profit hospital’s challenges

In the Tampa Bay Times, Letitia Stein writes about a local independent not-for-profit hospital that’s struggling financially and may be looking for a buyer. In some ways, it’s more business story than health story, but Stein relied heavily on the same public financial documents that AHCJ members use regularly, and fleshed them out with the help of familiar sources.

Bayfront’s financial statements help explain the interest in a partnership. In 2011 and 2010, its operating margins, key indicators of its core patient-care business, were razor thin — less than 1 percent, state records show.

In 2009, the operating margin — the difference between patient-care revenues and costs — was $4.8 million in the red.

To add context to those numbers, Stein talked to local and national experts on the business of health care. For example:

“It seems to me the biggest challenges are how to survive when revenues are barely growing and (Bayfront) has a very large Medicare and Medicaid share with few privately insured (patients),” said Mark Pauly, a professor of health care management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton business school, who reviewed Bayfront’s 2011 state financial filings.

The story itself is a snapshot of why independent not-for-profit hospitals are an ever-rarer breed, but more importantly, it’s an example of how a well-trained health journalist can take a straightforward business story and tie it into the larger narrative of a region’s health care ecosystem and economy with the help of the right documents and sources.

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