Mountain View credits lean operation for weathering down economy


Mountain View Regional Hospital
File, Star-Tribune

Dr. Tom Kopitnik performs a lumbar fusion on a patient in 2009 at Mountain View Regional Hospital. Officials at the east Casper hospital say a lean operation is helping them weather a down economy.

Mountain View Regional Hospital has not been immune to Wyoming’s sluggish economy, but officials there say they’ve weathered the slowdown without job cuts thanks to a lean operation.

The down economy has meant fewer patients as energy workers leave Wyoming. Some patients who do stay are putting off elective procedures.

But the doctors who own the east Casper hospital credit a workplace culture that avoids waste and an organizational structure that uses working managers with helping avoid layoffs.

“We have felt the downturn in the economy,” said Dr. Tom Kopitnik, who serves as Mountain View’s co-chief executive. “It’s just that we have always been very efficient in our fiscal management so that we have tried to minimize its effect on our staff and on the quality of care that we’ve been able to deliver.”

The hospital specializes in neurosurgery but offers a variety of other services including pain management, orthopedics and general surgery. It also operates an ICU and emergency room.

Wyoming Medical Center, the city’s largest hospital, laid off 58 employees last week. Officials there cited several reasons for the cuts, including competition from Mountain View and the city’s other physician-owned facility, Summit Medical Center.

Officials at Mountain View say it’s unfair to blame their facility. And they challenged suggestions that, as a for-profit hospital, they leave Wyoming Medical Center to care for less lucrative patients.

The Affordable Care Act prevents physician-owned hospitals from accepting Medicaid and Medicare patients. But because it opened before the passage of Obamacare, Mountain View accepts both, said Kopitnik, a neurosurgeon who helped found the hospital in 2008.

The number of patients who receive coverage through a government program, or who pay for their own care out of pocket, has actually increased over the hospital’s lifespan, officials there say.

“We must take any patient who walks through our door,” said interim Chief Nursing Officer Kristal Skiles. “We can’t look at them and make any different decision, or we would be in violation and subject to fines.”

Mountain View and Wyoming Medical Center might have a different mix of patients, Kopitnik added. But that relates to the services they offer. For example, the medical center runs a level II trauma center, with emergency services that aren’t offered by any other hospital in the state, save Cheyenne Regional Medical Center. Mountain View, in contrast, specializes in neurosurgical care and pain management.

“We have two very different patient populations,” Kopitnik said. “So you can’t really compare them apples to apples.”

The two hospitals also differ in size. Wyoming Medical Center has 217 patient beds and employs more than 1,000 people. Mountain View is licensed for 23 inpatient beds, with another 14 for observation. It employs 326 people.

That has its benefits when it comes to adapting to changes in the market, Kopitnik said.

“Because we are a smaller organization, we are very fleet of foot,” he said.

Follow Managing Editor Joshua Wolfson on Twitter @joshwolfson.

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