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Editorial: Good Shepherd's turnaround portends a brighter future

Dec. 16, 2017 at 11:09 p.m.

One does not need a long memory to remember those days when Longview's Good Shepherd Health System — now Christus Good Shepherd Health System — was in a dangerously poor financial condition.

Less than a year ago, in fact, there was open concern about how the hospital system was going to navigate staggering losses to remain afloat. In February, after a lengthy search by Good Shepherd for way to merge with another system to ensure a better future, Christus Health agreed to a deal and took over management of the Longview and Marshall medical centers as well as clinics and other facilities across the region.

Earlier this month, Christus Good Shepherd CEO Todd Hancock told us a turnaround most expected would take years had come much more quickly than anyone believed possible.

After roughly seven months — as of August — Christus Good Shepherd was once again operating in the black. That is cause for some real celebration.

Two thoughts immediately come to mind as we consider this news. The first is that some of the steps taken by previous management of the hospital certainly played a part in this achievement. Second, it suggests to us that Christus leadership is as solid as it gets, that it's willing to take the steps necessary to preserve both the quality of health care delivered and the financial stability needed for the future.

Of course Christus Good Shepherd's financial health is important to the city, as it is Longview's largest employer, by far.

While financial sustainability might not seem a prime goal to patients and families, without that key element, quality health care is forever in danger. But the determination to keep a hospital financially viable requires making decisions that are sometimes uncomfortable both for the staff and the community.

Hancock verified as much, and we have heard some grumbling about changes being undertaken, but we'd guess employees did enjoy the first merit raises that have been given in a long time.

Hancock said he believes the health care system can continue to operate above water and when the Christus fiscal year ends in June, that will also show positive numbers for a full year.

He obviously knows his operation, but there are signs pain could be felt in the coming year.

Insurance giant Blue Cross Blue Shield says Christus Good Shepherd's attempts to renegotiate managed health care plans could bring higher costs to customers. In fact, a Blue Cross representative says the company has sent a letter to Christus Good Shepherd informing them the hospital will be removed from the list of preferred providers on May 1.

That is by no means a final decision but it does show there are bumps in the road ahead.

Those rough spots are nothing compared to the hurdles that already have been crossed, however. We'd say the prognosis is good for a stable, high-quality health system in Longview for the foreseeable future.



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