Some might call Deaconess Hospital the last bastion of a bygone
era. With construction of its $8.5 million urology and office
building nearly complete, the nonprofit hospital is setting its eyes
on something far bigger: a proposed $15 million renovation of its
main complex and a $2 million addition to its Copper Lake assisted
The 5501 N. Portland Ave. hospital also is listening to proposals
from physician groups for joint ventures in the outpatient and
clinical realms -- all in reaction to today's turbulent health care
But some things choose to weather the storm alone, and Deaconess
is one. Despite modernization efforts, hospital leaders cling
fiercely to the staunch independence Free Methodists founded
Deaconess upon in 1946.
"Some people have kidded us, calling us the Switzerland of health
care in Oklahoma City," laughed Administrator Paul C. Dougherty, who
came aboard in November. "We're the only one not committed to some
In this age of for-profit medicine, catastrophic Medicare
forecasts and the spread of outpatient centers unburdened by
care needs, cynics might scoff at the role Deaconess has chosen.
Dougherty understands that -- but he doesn't agree.
"With more and more managed care, you do have to find yourself in
larger groups to spread the risk," he allowed. "That's why we're
involved in this HMO (Healthcare Oklahoma, of which Deaconess is a
co-owner). That's why we're involved in other managed care
Merger, however, is not on the horizon. The Deaconess board,
which remains 51 percent Free Methodist despite having only three
churches in the metro area, believes its mission -- to deliver cost-
effective, high-quality health care in a Christian environment --
best met by clinging to the principles that got Deaconess where it
in the first place.
"Right now it seems to be a strength for us," he said of
independence, "a strength to maintain our unique ministry, our
"We certainly feel that there's a place for the for-profit
industry, but we feel we provide an alternative."
That alternative takes a whole new light when studying the strong
returns for Deaconess this decade. Hospital revenues have climbed
65.6 percent since 1990, from $64 million to $106 million last year.
Including Copper Lake, Deaconess Health Services clinics and other
joint ventures established since 1990, Deaconess revenues surpassed
$114 million in 1996, up from $64.9 million.
Following national trends, outpatient services accounted for 31.7
percent of the Deaconess revenue stream last year, up from 15.8
percent in 1990. Inpatient services also have grown, with the
hospital's average daily inpatient census topping 160 since December
after running at 130 through 1996.
Despite that growth, Deaconess has only $3.6 million in debt on a
"Usually a hospital of this size would have $35 million in debt,"
commented Phil De Long, assistant administrator of finance. …