Hearty beginning

Executives at the Milwaukee area’s two new heart care specialty hospitals say their facilities are off to strong starts in the market.
In late January, The Wisconsin Heart Hospital opened at 10000 W. Blue Mound Road, Wauwatosa. Milwaukee-based Covenant Healthcare System Inc. and private investors own the 60-bed, $44 million hospital.
In October, the Heart Hospital of Milwaukee opened at 375 W. River Woods Parkway in Glendale. The 32-bed, $35 million hospital is owned by Charlotte, N.C.-based MedCath Corp.
The Wisconsin Heart Hospital exceeded its patient projections for the entire month of February before Valentine’s Day, said Norma McCutcheon, president of the hospital. She declined to provide specific patient statistics.
"We’re doing quite well," McCutcheon said. "We’re kind of surprised by the activity numbers. We’re quite thrilled."
The Wisconsin Heart Hospital is a two-story, 126,000 square-foot building with 21 rooms for outpatient care and 40 rooms for impatient care. The hospital was built on the site formerly held by Covenant’s St. Joseph Lakeview Hospital, which was razed.
About 150 people work at The Wisconsin Heart Hospital.
The Heart Hospital of Milwaukee has attracted patients from throughout the region, including some from Fond du Lac, Sheboygan, Madison and northern Illinois, said John Antes, president and chief executive officer.
"So far it’s going well," Antes said. "We have done many complex cases since we’ve opened with very good results."
The Heart Hospital of Milwaukee has about 125 employees and eventually plans to employ about 200.
"We planned a ramp-up period that usually takes a year," Antes said. "We’re tracking right with that."
Even though they are specialty hospitals, officials from both heart hospitals say their emergency rooms are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and are able to handle any patient who walks through their doors.
One of the first patients at the Wisconsin Heart Hospital came in to seek relief from a toothache.
The Heart Hospital of Milwaukee in early December received full approval from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations to receive patients who have made 911 emergency calls and are brought in by ambulance.
The Wisconsin Heart Hospital expects to receive the same approval by mid-March, McCutcheon said.
The Heart Hospital of Milwaukee has reached contract agreements with four of the 20 managed care plans in the Milwaukee area, said David Hoover, vice president of business development for the hospital. They are: Wisconsin Physician Service Insurance Corp., WEA Insurance Corp., MultiPlan, Inc. and Accountable Health Plans of America, Inc. Negotiations with other health insurance companies are ongoing. Deals with four or five other health insurance companies are "imminent," Hoover said.
The Wisconsin Heart Hospital has agreements with the same insurance companies that cover patients at other Covenant institutions, said hospital spokesperson Ellen Roeder.
Earlier this month, the Heart Hospital of Milwaukee’s parent company, MedCath Corp., reported it lost $933,000 for its first quarter, which ended Dec. 31. The publicly held company, trading under the symbol MDTH, incurred pre-opening expenses of $3.4 million for the costs of opening the Heart Hospital of Milwaukee and the Texsan Heart Hospital in San Antonio.
The company expects to incur a loss of up to $2.2 million for the year.
Although Covenant is a not-for-profit organization, The Wisconsin Heart Hospital is a for-profit business. Under the joint-ownership structure of the hospital, 49% is owned by Covenant, 29% is owned by cardiac and vascular physicians and 22% is owned by investors from the general public.
Officials at both The Wisconsin Heart Hospital and the Heart Hospital of Milwaukee say they expect their facilities to help limit cost increases for health care in the Milwaukee market.
"We expect the aggregate costs will be lower over time for the patient population that we serve," McCutcheon said. The hospital’s smaller, more efficient operation will lead to shorter patient stays and therefore lower costs, she said.
Officials with both heart hospitals say they are not concerned about competing with each other and are confident they will be able to attract sufficient amounts of customers.
"Their opening has brought more recognition to the concept of the heart hospital," Antes said.
"Our expectation is we will serve about 9% of the (cardiac care) market share in four years in the four-county region," McCutcheon said.

Heart hospitals

Wisconsin Heart Hospital
Cost: $44 million
Address: 10000 W. Blue Mound Rd., Wauwatosa
Number of beds: 61
Ownership: Covenant Healthcare System, physicians and investors

Heart Hospital of Milwaukee
Cost: $35 million
Address: 375 W. River Woods Parkway, Glendale
Number of beds: 32
Ownership: MedCath Corp.

Feb. 20. 2004 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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