Recent stumbles over financiers and cuts in Medicare funding do not reflect the overall health of one of the region’s largest employers, said Penrose-St. Francis Health Services CEO Margaret Sabin, who emphasized the system’s financial fitness and records in both revenue and patient volume during the past year.

The stumbles include delayed expansion at its St. Francis campus, compounded by a bond-rating drop related to its financier, Englewood-based Catholic Health Initiatives. Additionally, the system was recently docked 1 percent of its federal Medicare funding, a penalty handed down to hospitals with high rates of patient injuries, according to a Kaiser Health News report. Penrose-St. Francis Health Services was one of 769 affected hospitals or systems nationwide.

Nonetheless: “The business of Penrose-St. Francis is very healthy,” Sabin said.

According to data provided by Penrose-St. Francis, between fiscal years 2008 and 2016, hospital admissions grew by 6 percent, emergency department visits grew by 31 percent and the number of surgeries performed grew by 58 percent.

Johnny Rea, administrative chief of staff for the system, said Penrose-St. Francis is breaking records in ER visits, outpatient visits, surgeries and admissions.

And plans for a new hospital at Fillmore Street and Centennial Boulevard continue, Rea said. The system is cooperating with several homeowners associations in the area to help with the hospital’s design.

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Rea said the system is still waiting to close on 28 additional acres, and a groundbreaking date has yet to be set.

“It can’t be soon enough,” Sabin said. “We’ve increased our volumes, but we don’t have any place to grow at [the Central campus].”

As for the expansion delay, Sabin said the system has not been sitting idle, and construction will move quickly once ground is broken.

“We are excited to announce that we will be hosting the ceremonial groundbreaking on the approximately $100 million expansion of St. Francis Medical Center on Monday, May 1,” said Mark Hartman, chief administrative officer, St. Francis Medical Center. “While we experienced a slight delay in the start of construction, in the interim we have continued to refine our plans for expansion of the emergency department, operative services and neonatal intensive care unit. These efforts will only enhance our efficiency with construction after we break ground. The project is expected to take about 22 months to complete so we are looking at a grand opening of all our new and expanded services in the spring of 2019.”

Advancing patient safety

As for the Medicare penalty, Dr. David Dull, chief medical officer for the system, said safety metrics were from 2014, and the system has since made significant improvements regarding issues such as patient falls and infections. Dull said there weren’t any egregious safety lapses, but rather several areas that didn’t meet Medicare’s quality metrics. Patient safety metrics turned around enough in 2015, Dull said, that the system earned the Michael J. Skolnik Award for Patient Safety, which recognized the system’s “exemplary dedication and leadership in advancing patient safety across Colorado.”

The operating group implemented measures that resulted in an overall reduction of harm by more than 20 percent, according to Dull, who added that hospital rating safety standards often change and multiple sources should be considered when consumers research quality-of-care issues.

Chris Valentine, communications director for the system, said he was unable to disclose the impact of the Medicare penalty, but did say, relative to the system’s overall financial health, it was a small amount and would not affect quality of care.

“There’s a great deal of scrutiny on health care performance, and rightly so,” Sabin said. “We absolutely welcome that scrutiny. We rank nationally at the top of some of the rankings and there are ones where we don’t, but we’ll get there. We don’t want to be anything less than exceptional on every single metric.”

The system’s Net Promoter Score, which helps measure customer loyalty and brand perception, is among the highest for health care in the state.

In Colorado within the survey period of October 2015 through September 2016, the sample comprised 5,261 households. Penrose Hospital had an NPS of 28.27 and St. Francis Medical Center posted an NPS of 22.05.

The national average is 7.82, the state average is 5.09 and Centura’s average is 6.99.