News & Events

Backus reports strong 2011 performance

November 18, 2011

The William W. Backus Hospital spent the past fiscal year creating, building and growing connections to improve the health of the community.

“Connections” was the theme of the hospital’s Annual meeting Wednesday night at the Backus Business and Technology Center, where attendees heard patients praise the care they received at Backus, watched a year-in-review multimedia presentation and honored healthcare partners in the community.

“I am very proud to be on the board of such a great community institution, one with employees, volunteers and medical staff who realize what it will take to build the healthcare delivery system of tomorrow,” Backus Board Chairman Peter V. Disch said.  “I continue to be amazed at the rapid changes in healthcare, and am in awe of just how much hard work, day-in and day-out, goes into making sure that Backus is positioned to be here and strong, even in the face of sweeping change.”

Backus President and Chief Executive Officer Dave Whitehead thanked staff for all they did to keep Backus strong, and create “a system of sustainable care.” He said as a not-for-profit hospital, Backus is reinvesting its entire operating margin in people, technology and increased regional access to programs and services that will help improve the healthcare delivery system for patients in eastern Connecticut.

“The key is innovation throughout all levels of the organization,” Whitehead said. “Our Board, senior leadership, management team, frontline staff, medical staff and volunteers realize that no hospital, no matter how big or small it is, can afford to keep the status quo. We need to be innovative in finding ways to provide better care to our patients in more efficient ways. This is never an easy balance, but our successes as a team have positioned us well for the healthcare realities of tomorrow.  I would like to thank all members of our team who made our successful year possible.”

The examples of how this was achieved are wide-ranging. They included designing new processes to provide better and more efficient care, effective resource allocation and cost management.

Despite a lackluster economy and sweeping changes in healthcare, Backus achieved an operating margin of $24.9 million, or 9.2 %, in fiscal year 2011.

Meanwhile, the hospital was able to increase its number of employees compared to 2010, and receive state and national recognition for the programs and services it provides.

To reward staff for all they have done to help the organization succeed, Backus awarded bonuses of up to $1,200 to eligible employees Thursday, based on the number of hours they worked. Later this year, eligible employees will receive merit increases averaging 2.5% and matching contributions to their retirement plans.

Backus Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Dan Lohr said this and other accomplishments were made possible because of Backus’ strong financial position. However, he explained that it costs more than $700,000 per day, every day of the year, to run the hospital, and the hospital is on track to spend all or more of its 2011 operating margin on the Plainfield Emergency Care Center project; investment in employee benefits; healthcare information technology; new programs; physician partnerships and other community collaborations.

Michael Driscoll of Sterling was featured in a video at the annual meeting, speaking firsthand about the quality care he received as a cancer patient at Backus. He also attended the meeting, praising Backus for the coordinated care he received from literally hundreds of Backus employees. He said he never realized how many people it takes to care for a single patient, many of them behind the scenes. He praised everyone from the staff cleaning his room to the physicians who treated him.

“You basically saved my life,” he told the audience of approximately 150 people.

Also at the meeting, Whitehead announced that Three Rivers Community College is the recipient of the 2011 William A. Slater President’s Award.

The award honors people and organizations that collaborate with Backus to help improve health and quality of life in the region. It was given to Three Rivers for “leadership and innovation in nursing education.”

The President’s Award includes a $10,000 gift, which will go to the Three Rivers Community College nursing program’s Veronica W. Cronin Nursing Scholarship Fund, which was established by former Dime Bank President Jim Cronin, a longtime member of the Backus Board of Trustees and community activist whose mother was a nurse.

Ellen Freeman, a Professor of Nursing and Director of Nursing and Allied Health at Three Rivers, accepted the award and was thankful for it. However, she said Backus helps Three Rivers throughout the year. She said the hospital’s generosity includes major gifts for its nursing lab, equipment and technology including patient simulators for teaching and on-the-job training Backus provides to ensure Three Rivers nurses are ready to provide high quality, safe care when they graduate.

“Thank you from the entire nursing department, and all of our students,” Freeman said.

Three new members were added to the Board of Directors and Board of Trustees, including two new physicians — Dr. Donna Romito, a pulmonologist; and Dr. Stephen Briggs, an obstetrician and gynecologist. They join Medical Staff President Dr. Bert Coppotelli, and Medical Staff Vice President Dr. Mark Tramontozzi, bringing the total number of physicians to four on the 15-member board.

The additional new member is Paul C. Maxfield, CPA, Chief Financial Officer for the A/Z Corporation, a nationally recognized construction, operations and maintenance services firm with offices in North Stonington.

The Board also recognized the service of outgoing members Grace S. Jones, PhD, and Todd Poster.

In addition to the Backus Auxiliary announcing a $250,000 pledge towards the Plainfield Emergency Care Center, which is currently under construction and scheduled to open in the summer 2012, the Annual Meeting also included a review of other highlights of the year. Some of them included:

  • Backus receiving the Community Service Award from the Connecticut Hospital Association for the Enjoy LIFE (Lifelong Investment in Fitness and Exercise) in the Plainfield region.
  • Providing more than $61 million in community benefits and uncompensated care, from subsidizing care for those without insurance to collaborating with partners on projects such as MyHealthDirect and providing farmers’ market vouchers for children who are at risk to become obese.
  • Receiving national recognition as a Most Wired Hospital, meaning Backus is on the cutting edge of hospitals nationwide in establishing an electronic medical record.
  • Going more than 1,000 days without a central line infection in the Critical Care Unit.
  • Renovations to the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory.

To learn more about Backus highlights in the past year, view its online annual report atwww.backushospital.org/2011.