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Hospital Halts Funds for Senior Health Center

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After nearly five years, Bon Secours Richmond Health System, a Catholic nonprofit hospital group, has decided to halt funds to the Senior Health Center.

Dr. Stanley Furman, the physician who operates the center along with a separate private practice, says that the center costs between $50,000 and $100,000 to operate annually. Without Bon Secours' backing, he says the office will likely close. There had been a staff of five; by press time, two nurse practitioners had been let go.

The news has raised some eyebrows, particularly because a recent front-page article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that the hospital had made a profit of $28 million last year.

That figure is misleading, says Jody Challen, director of public relations and marketing for Bon Secours. Because revenues are reinvested in diagnostics and labor, the figure does not represent profit.

Regardless, she says, stopping funds for the senior center makes financial sense. "His volumes are low; he's treating between two and six patients a day," she says.

Furman acknowledges that he sees fewer patients daily than some physicians. But that's because he spends more time with them and gives patients the benefit of comprehensive exams.

News of the office's troubles disturbs Amy Anderson.

For two years Anderson has relied on the Senior Health Center to provide medical care to her parents, Jim and Aileen Dundon.

Anderson's father is 85; her mother is 78. Her mother has Alzheimer's disease, and two years ago her father suffered a series of strokes.

Finding a doctor she liked to treat them both was difficult, Anderson says. Then she learned of the Senior Health Center. There, her father's health and state of mind improved under Furman's care, Anderson says.

"They're our right hand," says Anderson, who is worried she'll have to find another doctor for her parents. "Just when you find a place that has the right bedside manner, you find out Bon Secours is shutting the doors because it's not profitable."

Challen says that Bon Secours will direct its money toward programs that produce results for more patients — like Viva, a wellness program for seniors, and Caravan, its van outreach. Challen stresses that Bon Secours doctors routinely refer elderly patients to Furman and will continue to — only from now on, it will be to his private practice and not an office subsidized by Bon Secours.

— B.W.

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