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Beth Israel Reports Upswing After Past Financial Trauma

Despite the sluggish economy, a Harvard-affiliated medical center has projected its most promising financial results of the last five years.

The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), which has struggled financially in recent years, announced Wednesday that it lost less money last year than the year before.

Hospital officials said the facility lost $26 million in 2001, down from $58 million dollars the previous year. The reduction in losses is especially impressive, they said, because they have also managed to reduce BIDMC’s outstanding debt from $611 million to $475 million over the past two years.

According to an e-mail sent to BIDMC employees on Wednesday, the debt reduction and other improvements have resulted in decreasing the medical center’s overall per-diem cost of serving a patient by about 15 percent in the two years.

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Paul F. Levy, president and chief executive officer of BIDMC, attributed the improved financial picture to executive’s efforts to cut expenses and increase patient volume at the medical center. BIDMC currently treats 850,000 outpatients and 37,000 overnight patients annually, an increase of about 40,000 patients from last year. The medical center also recently sold its Libby Building for $14.5 million dollars.

Over the past few years, the medical center has been logging losses of $50 to $70 million dollars annually. As a result, many high profile surgeons have left the for other venues. Levy, a former executive dean for administration at Harvard Medical School, said the trend has now been reversed.

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“We’re no longer losing surgeons, in fact, we’re attracting new ones,” Levy said.

BIDMC’s upward turn in finances has also positively affected the people who currently work at the medical center, said Dr. James McDaid, a research fellow at BIDMC.

“Now, with the improved financial situation, people feel much more comfortable,” he said. “There is a much better atmosphere where I work.”

According to Levy, BIDMC’s financial situation will continue to improve over the next few years. “We’re projecting that in the fiscal year 2004 we will be breaking even,” he said.

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