Welcome Back, Students
I’ll begin today with a big WELCOME to our students, both new and continuing. Although some nursing and health related professions students have been on board for a couple of months, most of our students are beginning their activities this week. We are glad you are here, at the state’s only academic medical center, joining us on our quest to create a healthier Mississippi. For those of you who have newly arrived, remember that your course of study is more like a marathon than a sprint. Pace yourself, take good care of yourself and your classmates, and rely on the resources that are all around you to get you through this journey to the finish line. And make sure to have a little fun along the way!
We are in the second month of the 2019 fiscal year, but I wanted to share preliminary financial results from FY 2018. You may recall that after a loss of $11 million in the previous year due to mid-year state and reimbursement cutbacks, we had set a “break even” budget for FY 2018. That means our revenues would match our expenses but we would not produce a net income margin to reinvest in our activities. Well, we did a little better than that, ending the year with a $2.3 million margin. All things considered, that’s good. But for an organization like UMMC, a 2-to-3 percent margin – somewhere between $40 to $50 million – is needed most years so that we can repair and replace our buildings and equipment, pay our workforce at market rates, and grow our services and programs in a strategic manner to meet our state’s needs. We are looking to return to that kind of financial consistency in the future. For now, thank you for all the hard work, the attention to controlling our costs, and the improvement in clinical quality that helped us return to a positive margin last year.
We were delighted to have U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker on campus yesterday morning to attend the groundbreaking for a new building to house our Mississippi Center for Emergency Services. Located on the extreme eastern edge of campus near the State Department of Public Safety, the MCES will allow us to consolidate all of our emergency communications and response capability – including MED-COM – under one roof with plenty of space and state-of-the-art equipment.
Sen. Wicker and retired Sen. Thad Cochran are among those who helped shepherd $20 million in grant funding for the MCES, which will also house the Mississippi Integrated Public Safety Communications Center. Other partners in the project include the U.S. Department of Commerce, the office of Gov. Phil Bryant, the Mississippi Wireless Information Center, and the Mississippi Department of Information Technology Services.
As we learned during Hurricane Katrina, one of the huge hurdles we face during a disaster is simply communicating with each other. Our MED-COM center, which coordinates patient care and transport with emergency response agencies, hospitals and first responders statewide, grew out of that experience. Thanks to Dr. Damon Darsey, medical director of the MCES, and Dr. Jonathan Wilson, chief administrative officer, for leading the charge on this important project.
Over 200 people attended the event, some of whom are long-time friends and supporters of the Medical Center, including former Gov. Haley Barbour, Congressman Gregg Harper, Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and newly appointed IHL commissioner Dr. Al Rankins. There were also many leaders from state and federal public service departments present, some who came in from all over the country (Maine!) just to be here for the groundbreaking of what will be a first-of-its-kind facility in the country.
Finally, I want to thank all those of you who completed the recent Employee Engagement Survey. The overall response rate was 80 percent, one point shy of last year’s rate, but still very strong. Employees of the health system achieved a 91 percent participation rate, up 2 points from last year, while the Academics & Research component of UMMC had a 66 percent participation rate, down 3 points from last year.
We’ll learn more about what the survey results reveal when the vendor, Press Ganey, shares that information with us in September, and we will pass those results along to all of you. We have an exciting plan to create a number of interdisciplinary, cross-campus groups to brainstorm ways to respond to the results. We’ll share more details about that next month.
In the meantime, thank you for once again taking seriously this opportunity to share your voice with us. I assure you that we are listening, and will act upon your concerns whenever possible, as we make our way to A Healthier Mississippi.