HealthWorks for Northern Virginia, the financially troubled nonprofit health service provider charged by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors with improving its productivity before it could receive additional county funding, is making progress toward its goals, the organization’s chief executive says.
The organization, which runs community health centers for low-income and uninsured people in Leesburg and Herndon, exceeded its productivity goals for June and July, said Carol Jameson, interim chief executive. HealthWorks also received letters of support from two area hospitals that serve as key partners with the community health centers in providing health care to people without health insurance.
“Our staff and board of directors have worked tirelessly over the past four months to improve our systems and address the other factors which contributed to our financial difficulty,” Jameson said. “I am very pleased to report we are now achieving the operational goals that will ensure we are successful over the long term and able to continue providing much-needed health and dental services to the Loudoun and Fairfax communities.”
The improved productivity measures and support from the hospitals are critical to HealthWorks’ bid for additional financial assistance from Loudoun. After being approved for a $176,000 county grant on July 2, HealthWorks requested an additional $400,000 contribution from the county Board of Supervisors the following week.
The board deferred acting on that request until September, after several board members said they wanted to give HealthWorks two more months to demonstrate that its financial situation was improving before they would agree to commit additional county funds to the nonprofit group.
Low productivity, measured by the number of patient visits per provider, was one of the main factors that contributed to HealthWorks’ tenuous financial situation, officials said. In April, when HealthWorks officials first requested financial assistance from the Board of Supervisors, it was operating at a $100,000 monthly deficit and had no cash reserves.
Since then, HealthWorks has met or exceeded its productivity goals every month, Jameson said. “It’s going very, very well,” she said, adding that she was hopeful the trend would continue this month.
On July 8, the board’s Finance, Government Services and Operations Committee discussed HealthWorks’ request for $400,000 in county funding. County Administrator Tim Hemstreet recommended that the county develop a memorandum of understanding with HealthWorks that included performance measures for the organization to meet to receive the funds.
“I have very strong concerns about the optimism in your recovery plan,” committee Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) told HealthWorks officials. “I think it’s very important that this [memorandum of understanding] gives you the incentives to move forward, and at the same time protects taxpayers.”
HealthWorks officials said that the organization had improved its productivity measures through operational improvements and by reducing the size of its medical staff. HealthWorks also reduced costs by closing its Sterling center May 5, Jameson said.
Jameson told the committee that HealthWorks also planned to improve its bottom line by increasing the percentage of its insured patients. Although only 7 percent of HealthWorks’ current patients have insurance, she estimated that 15 to 18 percent of its patients were eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act. She also said that HealthWorks would develop a plan to better market its services to the general public, including people with health insurance.
Supervisors voted unanimously to direct county staff members to work with HealthWorks to develop a memorandum of understanding. The finance committee is scheduled to revisit HealthWorks’ funding request Sept. 9.
HealthWorks’ case for receiving additional county funding may have been bolstered by letters of support it received last month from HCA and Inova, which operate area hospitals.
“Both Loudoun and Fairfax counties are fortunate to have community health centers that provide not only high-quality primary health care, but also integrated dental and behavioral health care,” John Deardorff, chief executive of HCA-operated Reston Hospital, said in a July 14 letter.
Deardorff said he is confident that HealthWorks is taking the “needed steps to appropriately reorganize and become more efficient given their constraints and the current status of the health-care landscape.”
H. Patrick Walters, Inova Loudoun Hospital chief executive, said in a July 10 letter that he thinks “the new leadership at HealthWorks is developing and implementing appropriate business practices that will lead to financial stability for the organization.” He said that the primary care provided by HealthWorks helps ensure that “patients receive timely sick and preventive care and do not unnecessarily tie up the emergency department and other resources.”
Walters said in an interview that HealthWorks still “has a ways to go” to demonstrate that it will be able to attain financial stability.
“The critical feature of every good plan is execution,” Walters said. “It’s not a slam-dunk by any means.”
Jim Barnes is a freelance writer.