The latest numbers show Lawrence Memorial Hospital is having a better-than-expected financial year in 2014, and hospital leaders are budgeting for a solid 2015 as well.

The hospital's board of directors on Wednesday approved a 2015 budget that estimates the not-for-profit hospital will take in about $7.8 million more in revenue than expenses. That's on top of new numbers that estimate the hospital will make about $8.6 million this year. That's about $1.5 million better than hospital officials had budgeted for at the beginning of the year.

Gene Meyer, president and CEO of LMH, said the hospital had not experienced the same type of slowdowns some other hospitals had seen in patient volumes.

"I think we have been able to sustain some success because our volumes have held fairly stable," Meyer said. "Some hospitals that are suffering have seen a 20 percent decrease in inpatient activity. We haven't seen that, and we've also done a good job of controlling our costs."

Meyer said the trend in the insurance industry of offering more "high deductible" health care plans has hurt many hospitals because people have been more reluctant to get health care treatment because they are concerned about paying the out-of-pocket costs associated with those health care plans.

Meyer said LMH has been able to avoid some of that slowdown by reducing the number of Douglas County residents who are traveling outside the community for health care services.

"We are serving more people," Meyer said. "We think we're serving some people who were going elsewhere previously."

LMH is budgeting to collect about $190 million in net patient revenues in 2015, up from a projected $182 million in 2014. The 2015 budget also includes funding for the equivalent of 18 new full-time positions at the hospital. The new positions are a mix of patient care and regulatory positions. Several of the positions aren't entirely new to the hospital, but rather are rehabilitation therapists who had been working at the hospital for a contractor but now are being added to the LMH payroll.

As a not-for-profit, city-owned facility, the hospital technically does not make a profit. Instead, it uses its revenues over expenses to fund improvements at the hospital and to build up reserves to cushion against future downturns.

The 2015 budget includes about $7.8 million worth of capital improvements at the hospital. The largest project will be a $3.1 million renovation of the hospital's inpatient rehabilitation and skilled nursing unit. Janice Early, LMH's vice president of marketing and communications, said the rehabilitation will convert the shared patient rooms into private rooms, add a dining area for rehabilitation patients, and even an area designed to replicate an apartment so that stroke victims and other patients can work on regaining some of the skills they'll need to return home.

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