Manufacturing and construction aren’t the only sectors that have faced harder times recently as a result of the economy. Health care, too, has seen its share of economic adversity.
According to the Kansas Hospital Association’s 2010 Annual STAT Report, hospital revenue and expenses grew very little or even declined as a result of the country’s economic downturn that became pronounced in 2008. Hospitals  have had to become creative to make current budgets practical.
“We’ve paid a lot of attention to reducing costs,” said Jim Chromik, president and CEO of McPherson’s Memorial Hospital. “In our case, the way we’ve tried to offset [the economic downturn] is primarily reducing costs.”
Many hospitals can’t count on revenue to increase, so budgets must be scrutinized for excess spending.
“In tighter periods, you tend to look very carefully at everything,” Chromik said. “We had a contest among the employees giving us ideas to save costs...and they came up with great ideas and then we implemented those ideas.”
After the contest, Memorial Hospital switched from using paper and Styrofoam products to reusable dishes. Chromik said this one change has saved the most money of any idea the hospital has used.
While many hospitals on the east and west coasts have suffered blows related to unemployment, hospitals in the Midwest have fared a little better, Chromik said.
 “The unemployment rate in McPherson is relatively low,” Chromik said. “We have very good industry as a result in McPherson and very good health insurance. That helps us because a very high percentage of the people living here have health insurance, but we still saw a downturn in volumes, predominantly in 2010.”
As of November, the U.S. Department of Labor stated national unemployment was 9.8 percent, while McPherson County’s unemployment rate stands at 4.9 percent.
Unemployment is not the only factor that influences the fiscal welfare of hospitals, though.
“Medicaid was affected by the state budget deficit, and of course we’re concerned about Medicaid in the future because of the financial health in this state and all states,” Chromik said. “That’s a big concern.”
All the news is not bad, though. The KHA report predicted at least a 4.5 percent increase in 22 health care occupations listed, with pharmacy technician topping the list at a projected 28.3 percent increase. Only two, psychiatric technician and recreational therapist, were projected to decline. Chromik said this is a reflection of priorities shifting because of economic influences.
“When health care dollars...are reduced, usually it’s the less critical modalities or treatments that are eliminated first,” he said. “Recreational therapy is less important than, say, intensive care in medicine or something that’s critical.”