OMC CEO updates on staffing, legislation

Hospital says it lost about $24 million in 2023

PORT ANGELES — Olympic Medical Center is still without a chief physician officer more than three months after Joshua Jones left in October 2023, but it appears to be getting closer to filling the position, CEO Darryl Wolf told commissioners on Wednesday.

“We are currently working with four candidates,” Wolfe said. “We’re thankful we have a lot of interest in this position and very qualified candidates, and we’ll keep moving forward.”

In addition, he said, two urologists will join OMC this summer, helping to fill openings left by resignations and retirements.

OMC’s financial report showed it on track to lose about $24 million in 2023 as it continued to see a drop in the number of patients and procedures from 2022. Wolfe said the final 2023 financial audit would not be completed until late February.

To stabilize its financial situation this year, Wolfe said OMC would continue to cut expenses such as supply purchases.

It would also focus on increasing revenue, particularly through more accurate coding and medical billing and improving the efficiency of its operating rooms.

OMC is not alone in trying to turn around its bottom line. In the first nine months of 2023, hospitals in Washington state lost $1.2 billion from operations.

Among the top legislative priorities for OMC and the Washington State Hospital Association this session are to oppose House Bill 2066, Wolfe said, which would prohibit certain kinds of contracts between hospitals and insurance providers.

“They’re couching it as cutting costs for patients, which I’m all for, but they’re giving a lot more leverage to insurance companies, which I’m not for given the challenges we currently have with preauthorization,” Wolfe said.

Among the issues in Olympia that OMC will be following are solutions for difficult-to-discharge patients who are unable to make decisions about their care. They remain in hospitals — sometimes for months at a time — because there is nowhere else for them to go.

“We have a lot of folks who end up here that don’t necessarily need medical care, but the safe place for them to go to or the right disposition or situation for them to go is not always apparent or quick,” Wolfe said.

Quality support services director Liz Uraga reported on the status of a vulnerable patients work group that, since September, has been developing processes for the care of individuals with mental or substance use disorders, housing or transportation challenges and inability to make decisions about their care that creates barriers to effective treatment and discharge.

Members of the working group are drawn from across OMC’s departments and disciplines: nursing, physicians, ethics, case management, quality support services, patient experience, security and legal.

“We’ve drafted a new patient and care team partnership,” Uraga said. “We’ve put in behavior agreements with certain patients for having behaviors that interfere with our ability to care for them.”

The idea, she said, is to be more proactive and not wait until problems arise.

“If we establish those expectations right away, and if someone starts to deviate, we can go back and look at the partnership agreement with the patient and go through it with them,” she said.

The goal is for OMC to provide the best care to patients in crisis while ensuring staff remain safe, she said.

Commissioners said they were extremely impressed with how the program is developing and asked Uraga and chief medical officer Scott Kennedy to return in six months with report on its progress.

“It sounds like this is going to help support those patients perhaps feel less stigmatized or targeted, that is just phenomenal,” said commissioner Ann Henninger of individuals with substance or other disorders who are often reluctant to seek help.

In other news presented to board:

• COO Ryan Combs reported that construction to prepare for a new $1.5 million CT scan would to start June 1 and be completed by Oct. 1. The Olympic Medical Center Foundation contributed $800,000 toward the machine’s cost. Total cost of the project is $1.5 million.

• For the first time in many months, the commissioners meeting was open to the public and not virtual only. They will continue to be held online for those who are unable to attend in person.

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Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at 360-425-2345, ext. 50583, or by email at paula.hunt@peninsuladailynews.com.

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