By Dave Rogers
NEWBURYPORT — Anna Jaques Hospital officials announced that the hospital made more than $1 million over the last fiscal year, marking the sixth year in a row the Highland Avenue hospital has turned a profit.
The news that the not-for-profit institution continues to operate in the black, along with other factors, should allay any fears in the community that Anna Jaques Hospital will be sold in the near or far future, administrators stressed yesterday.
"There's no intent at the board level of selling Anna Jaques Hospital, to any comers," Delia O'Connor, the hospital's president and chief executive officer, said yesterday.
Anna Jaques Hospital chairman of the board, George Ellison Jr., added that the issue has never been up for discussion and the hospital has never been approached by a possible buyer.
In recent months, the ownership of numerous Massachusetts hospitals has changed with the emergence of a new player in the hospital scene, Steward Health Care. The firm has bought several small hospitals, among them Holy Family in Methuen.
Over the last six fiscal years, the hospital has made close to $8 million, after seeing losses the five fiscal years before that. During the same six years of profitability, the hospital has invested $23.1 million in new technology, services and patient care, not including the $15.6 million it is spending on a massive renovation project currently under way.
O'Connor said the investments made during those years have enabled the hospital to meet the expectations of its patients and increase services to continue the hospital's high level of care.
Recent improvements to patient care include the purchase of a digital mammography system, a glide scope system that makes it easier for doctors to insert breathing tubes, and video cameras to help neurologists treat stroke victims.
O'Connor also stressed that the hospital's continuing relationship with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is vital to keeping the cost of health care as affordable as possible and maintaining the hospital's reputation for measurable quality and service.
"All of these characteristics should play well in a market in which cost should suddenly matter and in which patients will experience some limits, both financially and structural, on unbridled choice," O'Connor said.
Work continues to be on schedule for the hospital's massive $15.6 million renovation project, which will include a new inpatient unit consisting of 18 private rooms; a new, more efficient power plant; and a new outpatient entrance where the current power plant is located.
The new power plant should be online by the end of the month, while the new outpatient entrance should be completed by summer. The new inpatient unit is expected to be completed in May but will need to be approved by the state's Department of Health before the new wing can open, a process that could take months.
In December, Anna Jaques Hospital reached an agreement with Wilmington-based Action Ambulance to provide ambulance service from the hospital, replacing longtime ambulance provider American Medical Response.
The contract with Action Ambulance is for discharges only, meaning that American Medical Response or any other ambulance provider can still drop off patients at the hospital.
Yesterday, administrators acknowledged that they have been pleased with the performance of Action Ambulance so far.
"It's working out fine; they've been very good. We've been watching their times very closely, and we're very pleased with them," interim chief medical officer Joe Hull said yesterday.
Action Ambulance has a fleet of 32 trucks, including trucks stationed on Low Street, each staffed with two emergency medical technicians. The next two closest Action Ambulance branches are in Ipswich and Georgetown.
Ellison stressed that the decision to replace American Medical Response with Action Ambulance had nothing to do with performance but rather AMR's inability to reach a new contract with insurance provider Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Without a new contract, the hospital was obligated to seek a new ambulance provider, Ellison said.