LRGHealthcare Recognizes Rhoda C. Ladd and Sally Proctor Award winners

LACONIA — LRGHealthcare held its 14th Annual Meeting of its members Wednesday night at Beane Conference Center in Laconia, with over 100 people in attendance.

As part of the evening's program, two recipients were honored with the 2016 Rhoda C. Ladd and Sally Proctor Awards, which are given annually to individuals who give of themselves to improve the community's health care system.

On behalf of LRGHealthcare, Scott Clarenbach, chairman of LRGHealthcare's Board of Trustees, presented the Laconia based Rhoda C. Ladd Award to Vascular Surgeon Samuel Aldridge, MD, and the Franklin based Sally Proctor Award to Family Practitioner Paul Friend, MD.

Aldridge joined LRGHealthcare in 1994 and is one of their five-star patient-review providers, just like his other two practicing partners at the Vascular Surgery and Wound Healing Center. Though most people would know him as a down-to-earth physician who's willing to make house calls and loves swapping fishing stories, he's been a true asset to LRGHealthcare. Patients and colleagues alike are fond of him. He's always happy to help and has a way of bringing out the best in people with a knack for bringing them together to work toward a common cause. Also a member of the U.S. Army, his support goes well beyond the Lakes Region having provided care for our soldiers overseas during multiple deployments and he will once again be deployed in a few months.

"He's humble and an all-around good guy," said Chairman of the Board Scott Clarenbach. "We're so lucky to call him a provider and friend of LRGHealthcare."

Friend has been with LRGHealthcare the better part of 20 years and has been an active member of the Franklin community. Whether it's a hospital event, Franklin Community Day, a safety fair, or anything to represent LRGHealthcare and the community at large, he is there. His colleagues and staff describe him as kind, caring, compassionate and incredibly supportive. Known for taking a situation from chaos to calm by his rational thinking and steady demeanor, he leads by example. Yet, he's never too busy to care for a patient in need. He's professional, personable and still makes house calls. Most recently, he joined Dr. Paul Racicot and Horizons Counseling Center in opening the Suboxone Clinic at FRH to treat those addicted to opioids. Clarenbach said, "We have immense respect for him and appreciate all his contributions to this organization and our community."
The theme for this year's Annual Meeting was "Winds of Change," and in addition to the awards, the program for the evening included the medical staff report and the financial report as well as a guest presentation given by Ken Lowrie of Prism Healthcare Partners, LTD. He discussed the benefit of having Prism at LRGHealthcare to work with staff and leadership and went over several of the positive changes already being implemented through this collaborative effort. To close out the evening, there was a question-and-answer session which opened the floor to all attendees to ask any questions pertaining to the evening's program and/or the many changes taking place at LRGHealthcare. The panel taking the questions included Scott Clarenbach, outgoing Chairman of the Board; Scott Sullivan, incoming Chairman of the Board; Bob Evans, MD, interim CEO; Henry Lipman, CFO; John Vignati, MD; and Ken Lowrie of Prism.

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LRGHealthcare Chairman of the Board of Trustees Scott Clarenbach, center, stands with this year's Sally Proctor Award winner, Paul Friend, MD, left, and Rhoda C. Ladd Award winner Samuel Aldridge, MD.

Fire heavily damages cottage at Whispering Pines on Weirs Boulevard


LACONIA — A summer cottage at the Whispering Pines Condominium on Weirs Boulevard was severely damaged in a Thursday morning fire which was fed by a leaking propane tank.
Ed Taylor of North Reading, Massachusetts, said he was opening up the cottage for his daughter, Wendy Richardson of Reading, Massachusetts, who has owned the unit for two years, when the fire broke out.
"I had turned the furnace on and went outside to get something out of my truck and when I came back I saw all kinds of smoke coming out from under the building," said Taylor. He said that he got down on the ground and pulled away the lattice work and tried to extinguish the fire, which was burning in the crawl space under the building, which like most summer cottages has no basement and rests on a platform above the ground.
"I went inside and got a pail and ran down to the lake and filled it with water. I threw the water on the fire and it went out, but it started again in another spot. There was a lot of smoke coming out and I realized that I wouldn't be able to put it out, so I went back to my truck and called 911," said Taylor.
Fire Chief Ken Erickson said that fire was reported at 10:50 a.m. and that Engine 5 from the Weirs Station arrived in five minutes. He said that Lt. David French reported heavy fire from a one-story home with serious exposures, and had his crew attack the fire with the goal of keeping it from spreading to the adjacent homes, which were only 12 feet away. Also responding were units from Gilford, Meredith and Belmont.
Erickson said "two LP tanks located on the back corner of the home were venting, so he had the hose stream redirected to the tanks to prevent an explosion. The tanks were so hot that as soon as the water stream was moved the fire would reignite," he said.
He said that he fire was knocked down in about 15 minutes but it took over an hour to overhaul the structure and dig out the fire in the floor and crawl space.
He said that the fire was accidental and started while the owner's father was attempting to light the pilot light on the stove. "There was a propane leak under the stove and it started a fire in the crawl space. Propane is heavier than the air so it sinks down. The home is probably a total loss," said Erickson, who said that the fire destroyed electrical wiring and plumbing underneath the building and heavily damaged the floor.
"It's probably coming down," said Erickson.

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A fire at the Whispering Pines condominium cottages on Weirs Boulevard Thursday morning severely damaged one of the homes. Firefighters kept the fire from spreading to nearby units. Fire officials said the fire started when the father of the owner lit a pilot light on a stove which was connected to a propane tank which had a leak. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

A tough year for LRGHealthcare - LRGHealthcare suffered $11.3M operating loss in fiscal year 2015

Lakes Region General Hospital - Karen Bobotas photo


LACONIA — Drawing on a lesson from his mother, Henry Lipman, told the nearly 100 people gathered at the Beane Conference Center for the annual meeting of LRGHealthcare this week that "Nothing is as good or as bad as it seems."

It fell to Lipman, senior vice president of financial strategy and external relations, to present the financial report, which featured a $27.3 million decrease in the consolidated financial position of the organization, leaving a deficit of $29.9 million for the 2015 fiscal year ending on Sept. 30.

The not-for-profit company owns and operates Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia and Franklin Regional Hospital, as well as the Laconia Clinic and other medical offices.

In March, LRGH signaled the gravity of its financial troubles by laying off 58 full-time employees after eliminating another 80 through attrition in the months before. Approximately a quarter of the layoffs were at Franklin Regional Hospital and the balance at Lakes Region General Hospital. The layoffs followed a regular weekly review of staffing begun in January to consider whether to fill any vacancies that arise as well as any requests for new positions or additional personnel.

Lipman was quick to stress that a one-time charge of $22.3 million incurred by refinancing the organization's outstanding debt of $133.3 million bearing an interest rate of 6 percent represents the lion's share of the decrease. By issuing $125.9 million Federal Housing and Urban Development Insured Mortgage Revenue Bonds at a fixed rate of 3.7 percent, LRGH will spare itself $46 million in debt over the life of the bonds and a savings of $3 million in the current fiscal year. The $22.3 million charge was required to secure the holders of the original debt as well as to retire that borrowing. Excluding the one-time charge, the loss to the company's consolidated financial position, Lipman said, was $7 million.

"We had an opportunity to make a long-term choice over a short-term choice," Lipman said. "We took a loss of $22 million to get a gain of $46 million."

At the same time, LRGH posted an operating loss of $11.3 million. A reduction in "disproportionate share" payments, which federal law requires states to make to hospitals serving large numbers of Medicaid and uninsured patients, contributed to the loss. Payments fell by more half, from $5.6 million in 2014 to $2.5 million in 2015. Lipman said that the decrease in disproportionate share payments reflects a change in federal policy, which is being challenged in court. Following a favorable preliminary ruling, he expects some $3 million in funding will be restored.

While total revenues slipped by less than a million to $217.8 million, expenses rose by $11 million. Salaries and benefits grew by $7 million, an increase of 5.7 percent, to $129.9 million, or 56 percent of operating expenses, which is in keeping with industry standards.

Lipman pointed to several factors weighing on LRGH's operating performance — a relatively high number of Medicaid and Medicare patients, an aging population and changes in private health insurance programs.

In 2014, 11.4 percent of the population of the Winnipesaukee Public Health Region was living at or below the federal poverty level, compared to 8.7 percent in the state as a whole. Among the patients served by LRGHealthcare, 14.4 percent were enrolled in Medicaid and 18.4 in Medicare, compared to 10.7 percent and 15.2 percent in the state. Lipman said that Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements represent about 70 percent of LRGHealthcare's gross revenues.

But, Medicaid reimbursement rates in New Hampshire are the lowest among the 50 states. And while nationwide hospitals lose on average about 14 cents on the dollar treating Medicare patients, in New Hampshire the average loss more than doubles to 30 cents on the dollar.

Meanwhile, the population of Belknap County, which represents much of the area served by LRGHealthcare, is among the most rapidly aging in the state. With a median age of 45.5, the third highest among the 10 counties. As the population ages, the demand for health care increases. But, at the same time, as people age and retire, they drop their private health insurance and enroll in Medicare. As result, the hospitals are treating a growing volume of patients but receiving less reimbursement — between a third and two-thirds less, according to the treatment and procedure — for doing so.

As private health insurers began offering plans that offset high premiums with high deductibles and co-pays, insurers seeking to enhance the competitiveness of their products and patients bearing a greater share of their health care expenses have begun exerting downward pressure on hospital charges. At the same time, when patients are unable to meet their high deductibles, hospitals are left with bad debt. Lipman noted that in the Lakes Region, with its large number of small businesses, employers tend to provide relatively less generous health insurance plans.

Lipman dismissed suggestions that the Affordable Care Act is responsible for the financial troubles besetting LRGHeathcare. He noted that the reduction in Medicare rates to finance the program have been offset by the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, which extended Medicaid coverage to some 48,000 people. "Without Medicaid expansion," he said, "we'd actually be worse off."

"It was a very tough year," Lipman said. But, without discounting the challenges, he added "there are lots of opportunities," listing the prospect of restoring disproportionate share payments, the reauthorization of the New Hampshire Health Protection Program and the federal investment in addressing mental health and substance abuse. Above all, he noted that LRGHeathcare has operated in the black for the past two quarters.

"I don't lose sleep," he remarked.


photo: Lakes Region General Hospital - Karen Bobotas photo.jpg