Hospital benefits more than $17M

Published 10:47 pm Friday, January 18, 2019

Sentara Obici Hospital spent $17.39 million in 2017 in uncompensated patient care costs as part of their support to the Suffolk community.

“Our mission is to improve health every day regardless of their ability to pay,” said Vice President of Operations at Sentara Obici Jessica Lowder. “We want to be the sole hospital to serve and make sure all of those needs are taken care of first and foremost.”

The Sentara system is a nonprofit company, and as such, they are dedicated to serving the community in a multitude of ways. Part of their impact in the community is a financial one.

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One of the biggest financial benefits to the Suffolk community is Sentara’s uncompensated patient care costs.

“The bulk of our community benefit comes from uncompensated care. We provide $17 million in truly uncompensated care,” Lowder said. “This includes outpatient testing, emergency department when they aren’t admitted. This is for those that don’t have the means to pay.”

Along with the uncompensated costs, Sentara has also invested in the community through its community benefit programs and unfunded costs for teaching programs.

Sentara Obici has invested $912,000 in programs like home care, transportation and additional care outside the walls of the hospital.

In addition to their programs, $400,000 has gone just to the CHOP program. CHOP provides services for patients below the federal poverty line who need at-home health care because of chronic diseases like diabetes or heart failure.

Other community benefits also include their $110,000 in unfunded costs for teaching programs. These programs include students from Eastern Virginia Medical School and nurses doing clinical at the hospital.

These financial investments are important to Sentara’s mission as a non-profit.

“This mission trumps the money without a doubt,” Lowder said. “That is not to say that we don’t have financial conversations to make sure we are being prudent. The patient comes first to make sure they get the care they need.”

A big reason they don’t have to stress about being able to serve their community is that they are part of a large hospital system.

“It’s the best thing about Obici being a member. We have sister hospitals and operate as a company,” Lowder said. “You can run into a single patient that runs up a huge expense, but being a part of a system allows that. If we were a solo hospital, that could be detrimental. Having the overall economy of a larger size allows us to keep the operation running and keep the focus on the patient.”

Putting the patient first will always be the mission of Sentara Obici, Lowder said.

“To a community like Suffolk, this is so important because where else would you go?” Lowder said. “I am so honored and humbled to be able to do that. We are committed to it.”

Statewide, Virginia hospitals provided nearly $3.3 billion in community benefit and support, according to a report issued earlier this month by the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association. This figure includes not only uncompensated care but also Medicare losses, taxes paid, and bad debt expenses absorbed, according to the VHHA.