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Harrington maps routes to improved financial health.

Byline: Brian Lee

SOUTHBRIDGE - Although it is still losing money, the 113-bed Harrington Memorial Hospital continues its efforts to improve services and expand its regional presence, according to President and CEO Edward H. Moore.

He said the hospital board's view is: "Let's do what we can to grow the business and balance the operating line that way and not try to do it by dramatic labor cuts."

Construction of the planned 18,000-square-foot, $8 million cancer center, the first facility of its kind between Worcester and Springfield, will begin next month, in hopes to start treating patients in July 2009, said Mr. Moore, who is 12 months into the job after succeeding the retired Richard M. Mangion.

The cancer project is a joint venture with 21st Century Radiation Therapy Services, a leading developer and operator of freestanding and hospital-based radiation therapy centers. There was no fundraising specifically for it other than the hospital's auxiliary holding an art auction that led to a $10,000 donation to the center, Mr. Moore said this week.

The first floor of the two-story building will hold a radiation oncology unit. Medical oncology, chemotherapy and other cancer-related functions will be on the second floor, he said.

Harrington is also in the midst of physician recruitment and wants to put offices for new doctors in neighboring Sturbridge, Charlton and, eventually, northern Connecticut, he said. The hospital employs about 15 physicians, an administrator said.

It is recruiting several physicians immediately - up to five hospitalists and up to seven primary care physicians to be based in Sturbridge, Southbridge, Charlton, and Webster-Dudley.

Charlton sites downtown and on Route 20 are being looked at, to renovate or build physician offices and ancillary services, he said.

Most Harrington physicians' offices are either on its South Street campus or within a half mile.

"If (patients) need hospital care, they'll come here, but to get the primary care physicians, we want to recruit them and put them in those towns we don't have much presence in now," Mr. Moore said.

Dr. Sheryl Irwin, a new physician, will be stationed in Sturbridge on 128 Main St. Dr. Robert J. Cherry, an urologist, will have an office in Sturbridge by October. A new physician in Harrington's emergency room will start in September or October.

Mr. Moore said 13 doctors have agreed to use a hospitalist program that started Monday.

"This way we have a physician who we employ who can make rounds throughout the entire day and see patients, look at lab work and radiology reports in a more timely manner, and adjust their orders accordingly and look in on them, if necessary, multiple times a day," Mr. Moore said.

Already under way is the renovation project for the inpatient unit on the second and third floors of the north wing. The unit is being gutted and all three-bed rooms are being eliminated. Most rooms will hold single beds, with some double-bed rooms, and there will be showers in each room instead of shared showers.

The first-floor imaging wing is being expanded, including two digital mammography units, stereotactic biopsy equipment, and two ultrasound machines that will all be part of a women's health area, Mr. Moore said.

Asked about growth during a tough economy, and avoiding layoffs other local facilities have faced, Mr. Moore acknowledged Harrington has experienced "some operating losses."

He said the hospital expects to lose about $3.5 million to $4 million this year, but that is a 20 percent improvement from last year and he said the balance sheet remains strong with an assets-liabilities ratio of better than 2.5 to 1.

"What we need to do," Mr. Moore said, "is find revenue opportunities as quickly as possible, like going out into Charlton or other communities where we didn't have enough presence, and bringing business here that wasn't coming here before. That includes not only inpatients, but (patients for) MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and computerized axial tomography (CAT scans)," he said.

"We had a good July," he said. "We're trying to put a few good months together to try and turn the corner on an operating loss in the past."

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Mr. Moore
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 28, 2008
Words:694
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