ROCKPORT — Pen Bay Medical Center has started on the road to financial recovery.

The hospital’s administrators discussed the improvement Tuesday.

The uptick was achieved by cutting expenses – largely administrative costs brought about through the creation of Coastal Healthcare Alliance from PBMC and Waldo County Healthcare – and by generating more revenues from winning back patients who had gone elsewhere when the region was experiencing an acute shortage of primary care doctors.

From 2014 through 2016, Pen Bay lost nearly $13 million, according to the Maine Health Data Organization. During that same period, Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast enjoyed a surplus of nearly $24 million.

Pen Bay experienced another $6.9 million in losses for fiscal year 2017, which ended Sept. 30. But that is an improvement compared with the $9.1 million loss in 2016. And in the first quarter of the current fiscal year, through Dec. 31, Pen Bay had a slight surplus.

Coastal Healthcare CEO Dr. Mark Fourre said the administration has had very good success in recruiting new doctors, particularly primary care physicians.

He said a waiting list for patients needing a primary care doctor had grown to 250 people, but now there is no waiting list.

During those years of long waiting lists, many potential patients simply went to other physician practices or hospitals. That resulted in lost revenues for Pen Bay. In addition, Pen Bay lost revenues for any tests or procedures needed by those people.

In addition to recruiting more physicians, the hospital and its associated practices have employed physician assistants, nurse practitioners and other medical staff so that patients do not have to go elsewhere.

Fourre said that on the cost-cutting side, efficiencies resulted from collaboration between Pen Bay and Waldo County General. A lot of that was from eliminating multiple administrative positions. He said Coastal Healthcare operates, for example, with one chief executive officer, one chief operating officer, and one chief financial officer rather than two of each, as had been the case when the two hospitals were part of separate organizations.

The savings from efficiencies totaled $4.1 million.

Fourre cautioned that one quarter of a Pen Bay surplus does not mean the financial challenge has ended. He said there are often fluctuations in the use of health care services.

Pen Bay is licensed to have 99 acute-care beds, but the average daily census has been in the mid-50s.

Fourre said the way care is delivered has changed significantly, so that patients spend less time in the hospital. He said this is to the benefit of patients because moving around and recovering at home has been shown to be more successful.

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