St. Charles Health System addressing budget shortfall

Revenue falls short, new tower plans under review

St. Charles speaks on finances

BEND, Ore. - A St. Charles Health System official confirmed Wednesday they are addressing a budget shortfall that is pushing back a major expansion project by several months.

Last summer, the hospital announced it would build a four-story patient tower, significantly increase the number of critical-care beds and add a new 500-space parking lot -- a $66 million project overall. 

After hearing rumors about the financial situation for Central Oregon’s largest employer, NewsChannel 21 reached out Tuesday to the city of Bend permitting department to see if construction plans had changed, and received this response:

“The city's current information is that their land use application was put on hold by St Charles on May 15. We have not received any indication from St Charles that they are planning on canceling this project.”

The project originally was expected to begin in the late summer to early fall of last fall. with the new tower to open in 2018. Now, after a review of the plans for possible modifications expected to take three to six months, the tower is now projected to be completed by 2019.

St. Charles Health System Chief Financial Officer Jenn Welander told NewsChannel 21 on Wednesday that the system made $845,000 in operating income for the first four months of the year, enough for a very slim operating margin. She said they are $8 million below their operating plan’s forecast for revenues so far this year.

“As we, just like any other business, go through challenging times, it’s prudent for us to look at our operations, look at our spending and make sure that we’re doing the things that are going to make St. Charles vibrant for the future,” Welander said. 

Welander said various factors have come into play, including rising deductibles under health care reform that are prompting people to put off non-critical procedures.

Hospital spokeswoman Lisa Goodman said while the patient tower plans are under review, they have no plans to cancel the project. She also said the budget crunch will not lead to any mass layoffs.

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