The CEO of Yakima Valley Memorial said Thursday that the hospital is taking the necessary steps to increase access to healthcare while maintaining long-term sustainability.
In an interview with the Yakima Herald-Republic on Thursday, CEO Carole Peet highlighted a recent decision by Moody’s Investment Service to raise the hospital’s rating outlook from “negative” to “stable”.
In its report, Moody’s noted several factors explaining the increased optimism.
The most important factor for Moody’s was Memorial’s designation as the only community hospital, which it applied for after the Astria Regional Medical Center closed in January 2020. The designation makes Memorial eligible for increased reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid.
Other positive indicators for Moody’s included paying off hospital debt and waiting for patient volumes to pick up after the pandemic.
While the rating outlook has improved, Memorial remains at a “Ba1” rating. In a press release, Moody’s highlighted several factors this could lead to a rating upgrade including cash growth and the restoration of the cash margin to the median for hospitals rated Baa3.
Moody’s ratings range from Aaa at the top to Ca at the bottom. Each category of letter is further broken down. The B rating category ranges from B3 at the lowest to Baa1 at the highest.
“For Moody’s to come in and validate that everything we’ve done over the last year and a half, (and) see this as a very positive move, is an affirmation of all the work we’ve done from a government perspective. leadership and board of directors, ”said Peet.
Moody’s announced the rating outlook upgrade on June 22. Memorial announced the revised outlook in a press release Thursday.
Memorial’s announcement comes days after the Yakima Herald-Republic published an article outlining the concerns and criticisms of current and retired members of the medical community. Concerns included a decline in available specialist services that pushed more people to seek health services outside of the community, increasing difficulty in retaining providers, and a lack of public engagement regarding the plans of the community. organization.
Peet declined to comment directly on the criticisms outlined in Sunday’s article and reiterated the organization’s focus on executing a five-year strategic plan that would ensure the hospital’s long-term financial viability and improve services in the community.
The Memorial’s board of directors adopted a five-year strategic plan last year. The plan outlines five different goals that Peet says will allow the hospital to improve its financial future, better meet the health care needs of the community, and increase services.
The focus is on “the needs of the Yakima community and the people. (The goal is to) ensure that everyone has access to care and to have as much access to care as locally as possible, ”said Peet. “We continue to advance this strategic plan.”
Peet noted that the goals outlined in the strategic plan take time, but noted several steps that are helping the organization move forward, such as recruiting new providers in cardiology and other specialty areas.
Obtaining the unique community hospital designation was a critical part of its efforts to improve its financial sustainability. With the designation, Memorial will receive a higher reimbursement for Medicare and Medicaid patients.
New CFO, IT conversion
The hospital has hired a new CFO who will take a close look at the hospital’s operations and finances and look for opportunities for improvement.
Former CFO Tim Reed has stepped down to oversee an accelerated IT conversion. After Memorial voted to end its affiliation with Virginia Mason, Memorial agreed to migrate patient information to its servers by August.
Such a process typically takes a few years, so doing it in a few months is a big undertaking, Peet said.
Moody’s noted that any issues related to the transition could disrupt operations.
New CFO Tom McDonagh, who took office four weeks ago, has worked for Providence Health & Sciences for twenty years. He recently worked with the Alaskan Native Tribal Health Consortium.
“Of all the people I spoke to, he had the skills and experience that benefit Memorial and Yakima,” said Peet.
Peet said she has met with various stakeholders and community members, including virtual and in-person forums. She also said she shared the company’s strategic plan with various community and medical groups, such as Yakima Rotary.
“I think we have been active, visible and available to talk about our strategic plan,” she said.