Riverside County’s once-struggling public teaching hospital is on sound financial footing and began the current fiscal year in July with a $54 million surplus, the hospital’s chief executive officer told Riverside County Supervisors on Monday (9/21).
The positive financial news is a stunning turnaround for Riverside County Regional Medical Center (RCRMC). Just two years ago the 439-bed hospital in Moreno Valley faced a $100 million shortfall and a rocky future in the wake of federal healthcare expansion and a changing healthcare economy. Today, hospital CEO Zareh Sarrafian said the census is stable, newly insured patients are finding quality medical providers, and plans are under way to expand and improve healthcare services with partners throughout the region.
Supervisor John Benoit said he was thrilled at the positive financial turn and looked forward to the hospital reaching its potential as a regional healthcare provider.
“We are pleased, excited and proud. We couldn’t say that two years ago,” Benoit said. “The reversal has been really mindboggling and the potential for achieving more is huge.”
Sarrafian cautioned the Board that much of the budget surplus was from one-time money, and that it should serve as a cushion for leaner times as the hospital seeks to make capital improvements and expand service lines.
“It has taken a small army to achieve what we have,” Sarrafian said, crediting hospital teams, the county supervisors and county departments for taking ownership of the ailing hospital and “coming together as a family” to pull it from its financial tailspin.
“We are meeting people at the most vulnerable part of their lives and we will do our best to be there for them,” Sarrafian said, of the hospital’s commitment to remaining in the community as a valued healthcare partner.
County Executive Officer Jay Orr said he had full confidence when Sarrafian joined the county that he and his staff would help the hospital rebound.
“We believed that he and his staff would make enormous strides quickly,” Orr said. “The momentum will continue as we add services and facilities to improve the availability of health care in the community and expand financial opportunities.”
As part of the hospital’s expansion plans, the Board of Supervisors on Monday unanimously agreed to purchase a state-of-the-art Da Vinci surgical robot, new CT and MRI equipment, and a cardiac catheterization lab. The new equipment is part of an overall $25.5 million capital improvement package that the Board approved Monday. The package will allow the hospital to replace outdated and worn-out equipment and devices that are crucial to quality healthcare.
Improvements also will help position RCRMC to achieve a Level One Trauma Designation. Currently, only Loma Linda University Medical Center in neighboring San Bernardino County has a Level I designation.
Upgrades also will be important as the hospital adds new services on its 32-acre campus, integrates with its public and behavioral health counterparts, and enters a network of providers seeking to expand services that will offer quality, needed healthcare close to home.
Sarrafian said the move to expand access makes sense. The Regional Medical Center has achieved nationally recognized milestones in care, and is a recognized Joint Commission Accredited Stroke Center, a Baby Friendly Hospital, a designated Hepatitis C Center of Excellence, and it boasts very, very low rates of hospital acquired infections – which is a challenge among hospitals nationally.
Sarrafian predicted the region will eventually be served by only a handful of large healthcare systems. The academic and community-service role of the county’s 122-year-old hospital will grow in importance as it educates hundreds of doctors and nurses every year, many of whom remain to practice locally.
Supervisors Marion Ashley and John Tavaglione said the brisk financial turnaround and strong leadership in place at the hospital give them good reason to be optimistic about the future of healthcare in Riverside County.
“We have been successful bringing the hospital back to high performance and respectability,” Ashley said. “Now it’s time to take the next step.”