Unpaid bills threaten hospitals


A high number of patients unable to pay their bills, combined with general recession woes, is decimating PeaceHealth.

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A high number of patients unable to pay their bills, combined with general recession woes, is decimating PeaceHealth, the nonprofit parent of Sacred Heart Medical Centers.

PeaceHealth took on heavy debt and tapped its cash reserves to build the $537.6 million RiverBend, which opened in August 2008, just months before the recession ripped through Lane County, leaving a trail of unemployed and uninsured people.

PeaceHealth lost $39 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2009 — its worst loss in two decades, said Wendy Apland, chief financial officer for PeaceHealth’s Oregon Region. It managed to eke out a small profit — $1.5 million — the next fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2010. Figures for the year ending in June 2011 won’t be available for months.

What happens at PeaceHealth matters to the rest of Lane County: It is the largest health care provider in the area, with two hospitals in the Eugene-Springfield area, one in Cottage Grove and one in Florence, as well as clinics and labs. It also is the county’s largest private employer, with the equivalent of 5,300 full-time employees, and the county’s sixth-largest taxpayer.

Read more at the Statesman Journal.

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