BERLIN – Atlantic General Hospital continues to work toward its goals of improving patient care and reducing health care costs, CEO Michael Franklin told Berlin officials this week.
On Monday, Franklin shared the hospital’s annual community presentation with the Berlin Town Council. He said Atlantic General Hospital (AGH) was doing everything it needed to remain “the leader in caring for people.”
“We’re in the right place, we’re doing the right things,” he said. “It’s continuing to take time, investment and a lot of change.”
In fiscal year 2018, the hospital billed $174 million and received $125 million. There were 3,200 admissions, which Franklin pointed out was a slight decrease over the previous year.
“You can see our admissions are down a little bit even though our population has grown in the area,” he said. “Our patient days of care are down a little bit. All that helps to bring our costs down a little bit for care which makes us a little more efficient.”
He said a key goal for AGH was reducing unnecessary hospitalizations.
“When we talk about keeping people healthier we talk about trying to prevent avoidable admissions by getting people more care at home or in the community so they don’t get so sick that they come into the hospital,” he said.
The number of physician visits increased by more than 17,000 during the past year, which Franklin said was tied to the goal of reducing admissions.
“We’ve had a tremendous growth in the number of people we’re seeing in our physician practices, in trying to get people access to their physician practices as opposed to using the hospital and the emergency room as their only source of care,” Franklin said.
Franklin told the council the hospital had provided $13.5 million in uncompensated care to the community through services such as health fairs, flu shot clinics, free screenings and educational activities. He added that Atlantic General employed 900 people and had a payroll of $55 million.
Going forward, Franklin said the hospital would work to establish an ambulatory surgery center.
“We’re in the process right now of working with the state to get an ‘ambulatory surgery center certificate of need’ to build a free-standing facility that’s off the hospital campus that will make it more convenient for people to receive minor surgical procedures,” Franklin said.
He added that there were now insurance companies that were refusing to pay for certain procedures to be done in a hospital when they could be done in an ambulatory center.
As far as capital campaign projects the hospital has completed, Franklin said the Atlantic General Women’s Health Center in West Ocean City and the John H. “Jack” Burbage Regional Cancer Care Center were both being heavily utilized by the community. The cancer center opened last summer.
“We’ve seen 52 percent more patients in that facility than what we saw prior to it…,” Franklin said. “We’re demonstrating that these are necessary services we should have in the community.”
The hospital will spend this summer modernizing its second floor, which looks much as it did when AGH opened 25 years ago. It’s also working on opening a new facility on Route 589, just south of Ocean Pines. The facility will house a proposed surgery center as well as primary and specialty care physician practices. Franklin explained that in the latest hospital ratings, one of the areas AGH scored the lowest was hospital environment. Because of that, AGH is working to improve its facilities, part of which is setting up new convenient places for patients to receive care.
Councilman Dean Burrell said he was excited about the hospital’s aspirations and plans going forward. He thanked Franklin and the rest of AGH leadership for their efforts.
“What you have shared this evening has made me enthusiastically anxious for the future of AGH,” Burrell said.
Councilman Elroy Brittingham praised the hospital’s growth during the past 25 years.
“It’s come a long ways,” he said.
Mayor Gee Williams said Franklin’s presentation was encouraging. He said that in the 1970s, Berlin had had just one doctor and reminded the council that the establishment of the hospital had helped reinvigorate Berlin’s economy.
“The tide started to rise,” he said. “I think that’s continuing today. Obviously we’re very happy to have AGH for a variety of reasons.”