- Howard University Hospital (HUH) since 2007 has paid at least $27 million for settlements related to malpractice or wrongful-deaths, The Washington Post reported on Saturday. The millions only accounted for 22 of 82 cases The Post tracked that were filed against the hospital. The Washington, DC-based teaching hospital, according to The Post, has had many issues, "including little oversight of medical residents, inoperable emergency room equipment, sloppy record-keeping and a lax nursing staff," documented by city officials.
- The hospitals reported a $4 million operating surplus in 2016, compared to a $19 million loss during the same time period the previous year, Becker's Hospital Review reported, adding the finances were helped by an increase in patient revenue. Before 2016, the hospital's last profitable year was 2012, Becker's reported.
- “Howard has had a lot of instability in leadership, particularly at the hospital, which has made it difficult to have a sustainable strategy,” Chiledum Ahaghotu, HUH's former chief of urology, was quoted in The Post.
It's hard to judge one hospital against another as healthcare is largely regional as it contorts to the needs of its population. However, many hospitals and health systems recently have shared dour news.
For one, expenses at Cleveland Clinic increased by 19% from $6.1 billion in 2015 to $7.3 billion in 2016, which drove a 71% drop in operating income from $480.2 million in 2015 to $139.9 million in 2016 (though the organization is still turning a profit). Moody’s Investor Service downgraded long-term debt and variable rate demand bonds held by Catholic Health Initiatives. Banner Health is looking to save $65 million through offering a voluntary employee termination after multiple rounds of layoffs. Baptist Health has just generally had a bad couple of weeks, with their CEO abruptly resigning.
MD Anderson Cancer Center also had its president resign this month. The organization has been in dire straights since it suffered a $266 million loss in fiscal year 2016 before losing another $67 million in the first two months of fiscal year 2017. The losses were largely attributed to an increase in expenses and a decrease in patient revenues. However, former president Dr. Ronald DePinho's resignation letter candidly revealed the pressures of managing healthcare delivery organizations. He wrote, "I could have done a better job administratively, a better job listening, a better job communicating. Forgive me for my short comings. I regret them, but I was, and continue, to be committed to saving lives and reduce suffering, to help MD Anderson accelerate the march towards prevention and cure, particularly for the underserved. I've done my very best."
Ahaghotu's comments on HUH's leadership also show that management and leadership often help the health of an organization in addition to revenues. Without consistent leadership, some quality and accountability can fall by the wayside.
Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove last week in Washington, D.C. during a panel said hospitals have been asked to completely transform care delivery system, but are inadequately funded to accomplish this. Additionally, regulatory and administrative burdens introduced by reporting programs and shifting policies have strained health systems. While there won't be a silver bullet to save any healthcare organization or health system, leadership and acknowledgement of problems may be a good first step.