Starr County hospital projects revenue increases despite shortfalls

Because of limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, revenues for Starr County Memorial Hospital came in lower than expected, but hospital staff remained optimistic for the next fiscal year and budgeted increases approved by the board last week.

The hospital board approved a budget of $90,304,828 for patient services, a 6.39% increase from the $88,772,962 that was budgeted for the current 2019-20 fiscal year which ends on Sept. 30. But this year, the hospital is expected to bring less than that with only $84,879,356 in revenues for both inpatient and outpatient services expected to come in, according to Rafael Olivares, the hospital controller.

Nearly every department similarly fell short of their projected revenues, which Olivares reviewed during a public hearing on the budget held on Sept. 24.

The hospital budgeted $62,924,347 in total operating revenues for the current fiscal year but is now only expected to receive $61,006,140. Still, the board approved a budget at $63,610,602 for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

The budgeted amount for the medical and surgical unit for this year was $1,617,068 but is only expected to total $1,261,553 by the end of the fiscal year.

For next year, though, Olivares told the board that from those actual revenues, they’re projecting a 20% increase.

The hospital had budgeted a total of $3,758,732 for in-patient services, including the medical and surgical unit, but they’re only expected to bring in $3,165,938 this year, a decrease of 15.7% or $592,794.

The approved budget for next year, though, estimates a 20% increase for that as well with a budgeted amount of $3,866,736 for inpatient services.

Revenues for outpatient services were budgeted at $8,635,811 for the current fiscal year but only $8,329,286 are expected to come in, a difference of 3.54%. The budget approved for next year, though, anticipates a 7.38% increase for a total of $8,944,225.

The hospital is projecting increases for the upcoming fiscal year because they’re hoping that things will soon be back to normal, Olivares explained.

“For one thing, services are starting to open up, we’re staring to see more patient activity in our clinic, in our ambulance,” he said. “We’re hoping to see some increase and some activity in our surgery department as well as in our GI department.”

The gastrointestinal lab is expected to reopen in October, said Thalia H. Muñoz, hospital CEO and administrator.

“This year, because of this COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen a decline in our numbers — patients really stopped coming in and we have shutdown some services such as elective procedures in surgery or GI and that would bring in a lot of patients,” Olivares told the board. “Those were two big departments, especially GI.”

“We’re being a little bit optimistic,” Olivares continued, “but at the same time, realistic and not saying ‘OK, we’re going to increase 20% or 30%.”

The explanation was in response to board member Dr. Mario Rodriguez who voiced concern over the projected increases and said he might have kept it the same seeing as how the future of how COVID-19 will continue to affect the area remains unclear.

“This makes it sound like ‘OK, by January, this is going to go away, we’re going to go back to normal,'” Rodriguez said. “But then again, we’ll see.”

Ultimately, the board unanimously approved the budget.

They also unanimously adopted the same tax rate, 0.264146 per $100 of taxable value, for the 2020-21 fiscal year. Due to an increase in home values, the rate is expected to bring in $338,580 more than it did this current year.