Columbus Regional Hospital taps savings to survive flood: Center hopes to open emergency room within weeks

June 23, 2008

If you're a hospital and a flood has just shut down your facility for months, how do you survive?

Pretty much like a person who's just lost a job. Put big projects on hold and raid the savings account.

Columbus Regional Hospital, evacuated and closed on June 7 because of historic levels of flooding, has tapped $30 million it set aside for building projects. It is now using the money to pay employees while it's closed.

Wages and benefits for its 1,750 workers run about $4 million every two weeks. The hospital, with 225 staffed beds, serves patients between Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Louisville.

The building projects-an emergency department and a five-story bed tower with private rooms for patients-now have been delayed.

"We needed to reallocate that money to keep our employees engaged and employed," said Denise Glesing, director of hospital planning and marketing.

In addition, CRH Foundation has donated $1 million and is trying to raise another $1 million in matching funds in the next month. It plans to spend the money to quickly restore the hospital's emergency room.

It's not clear how much damage Columbus Regional has sustained. Ruined equipment and supplies were worth at least $25 million. The hospital has flood insurance, but hospital officials expect to exceed the caps on their policies, Glesing said.

Meanwhile, the hospital is racing to get at least some of its services functioning. Already, it's offering outpatient cancer treatments at a different location. And it is now keeping a daytime urgent care facility open 24 hours a day.

The hospital expects to reopen its emergency room in six to eight weeks-maybe sooner. Inpatient services may not return for three to six months.

Some employees are being assigned to hospitals in surrounding communities to help them handle patients who would have gone to Columbus Regional. Other hospital employees are on clean-up duty at its closed campus.

The hospital's computer systems staff is madly transferring equipment to a weather-proof facility once used by Michigan-based ArvinMeritor Inc.

Lastly, some employees are studying how Columbus Regional can improve its work-flow and other processes, once they get to move back in.

"They're thinking at a very high level as they're scraping through every day just to dig out," said Doug Leonard, president of the Indiana Hospital Association.
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