Commission not sold on idea of home health sale
While county commissioners did not totally dismiss the idea of Pocahontas Memorial Hospital selling off its home health branch, two of them had several questions about the transaction itself and about the procedure the county should use in order to sell it.
PMH administrator Don Muhlenthaler said the sale will put nearly $500,000 back into the hospitalﾒs dwindling coffers in terms of the hospitalﾒs costs. Home health has lost $48,000 so far this fiscal year, according to PMHﾒs last public financial report.
ﾓThe reason we want to sell it is because weﾒre losing money on it,ﾔ Muhlenthaler explained.
But commission president Martin Saffer questioned both the sale and the intent of the proposed buyer, Louisiana-based Amedisys.
In particular, Saffer wanted to know how a private company could make money if the public entity could not.
Muhlenthaler said that because PMH is a critical access hospital, every department collects costs through a complicated federal formula; however, home health is one department that is not reimbursed on a cost-based formula. The hospital has made significant cuts, but cannot overcome the fact that rural Pocahontas County is where it does business.
He did reveal that Amedisys is interested, not only in the business, but in the fact that PMH has a certificate of need in six counties, including Randolph County.
ﾓWeﾒre getting $400,000 because they want to grow,ﾔ Muhlenthaler said. In spite of its interests to the north, he said Amedisys will operate from Pocahontas County.
Former home health director Terry Wagner said she believed Amedisys sees growth potential in Pocahontas County, as well.
Safferﾒs other concerns included employee retention, payscale and benefits. Muhlenthaler said all PMHﾒs home health employees will keep their jobs and maintain their salaries, but will see different benefits because they will no longer be covered under the Public Employees Insurance Agency.
Saffer and commissioner Reta Griffith were also hesitant about an auction of home health on the courthouse steps. Griffith said potentially another group could show up to outbid Amedisys, but not offer the same assurances for employees.
Muhlenthaler said the sale would have to be approved by the state health care authority. Heﾒs also under a time crunch, as he wants the sale to be completed by the end of the fiscal year, June 30. Muhlenthaler will retire in August.
Commissioners did not adjourn the meeting Tuesday, but rather recessed so that the issue of the sale can be taken up again.
Wagner said home health was a profitable venture until the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 changed the structure of Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements.
PMHﾒs home health agency began as a private company in 1978 and was purchased by the county-owned hospital in 1986, Wagner said. PMH Home Health had 38 employees at its peak and now has three full-time, as well as a handfull of part-time people, she said.
Hillsboro man questions sheriffﾒs motives on recovery house, auxiliary force
Hillsboro resident Joel Rosenthal spent an hour with the county commission Tuesday, questioning Sheriff David Joneseﾒs motives in applying for a grant that would fund the building of a recovery house for drug abuse rehabilitation and in appointing an auxiliary force made up of volunteers.
Both, said Rosenthal, could land the county in hot water.
He accused commissioners of rushing into the grant application for the recovery house and not asking enough questions.
Saffer acknowledged that the paperwork was done in a hurry, but reminded Rosenthal that drug abuse is affecting every aspect of Pocahontas County life.
Rosenthal said the county does not have enough resources to maintain such a facility and any issue that could, in the longterm, obligate every citizen of Pocahontas County should be ﾓthoroughly investigated and talked about.ﾔ
Pocahontas County has not yet been awarded the grant which would fund the structure, but is still in the running, Jonese said.
The sheriff, in response to the Rosenthalﾒs objections, offered up a challenge of his own.
ﾓDo you have any solutions?ﾔ he asked. ﾓWill you step up?ﾔ
Rosenthal gave an indirect answer concerning his time and interests, causing Jonese to further persist.
ﾓWhen you can get me more than 24 hours in a day, then Iﾒll be glad to help,ﾔ Rosenthal answered. ﾓI have too many things to do. My focus is on wildlife.ﾔ
ﾓItﾒs easy to throw around accusations,ﾔ Jonese said. ﾓBut maybe you should thank the people [who try to do something about drug abuse].ﾔ
Jonese said waiting lists at other facilities are long and it becomes increasingly difficult for him to move drug offenders into them.
To his challenges of the auxiliary force, Jonese told Rosenthal that itﾒs working out very well.
Commissioners also praised the program which allows volunteers to help in traffic situations, make transports to the regional jail and other duties that would otherwise occupy a deputy.
Rosenthal flushed out his hour by questioning animal control procedures at Allegheny Recreational Center. Again, commissioners assured him that ARC is taking good care of the animals.
Linwood Library meets commission challenge
Supporters of the Linwood Library got another boost as commissioners made good on the $5,000 contribution they promised if library supporters could come up with the same amount.
VISTA Sarah Eilers reported a $6,180 fundraising effort and a total of $12,650 that includes a grant from the Snowshoe Foundation.
Tourists have stopped by for directions, to use the computers or wireless internet services and to buy books, she said.
In other actions, commissioners:
ﾕapproved a $7,500 contribution for a work camp sponsored by North Central West Virginia Community Action and $500 for the groupﾒs annual fishing derby at Watoga State Park. Saffer voted against the motion to support the work camp.
ﾕapproved a line item addition to the WVU Extension Service budget to fund advertising for the Farmerﾒs Market. In addition, the commission will add another $500 at its first July meeting.
ﾕheard from FRN director Laura Young about the dental kits in lunch box programs. Young said WVU is working on a program for the county to have a group of dentistry students come to the county later this month. Young invited commissioners to events in Hillsboro and Green Bank on April 16.
ﾕheard from WYK Associates about its recommendations for upgrading the courthouse and building an annex. The plan includes electrical, plumbing and HVAC upgrades for the existing structure and razing the jail building to erect an annex that will include offices for the magistrate, magistrate court clerk and county law enforcement. Commissioners took no action on the proposal.
ﾕheard from Thomas Peterson about Teen Court, which would allow juvenile offenders to be judged by their peers. Peterson said the court is funded through an increase in traffic violation fees and has a seven percent recidivism rate. Commissioners will take up the issue at their next meeting.
ﾕapproved the list of poll workers for the May 11 Primary Election.
ﾕheld an executive session about investigation expenditures with Jonese and Prosecuting Attorney Donna Price.
ﾕheard from county coordinator Jay Miller that the Buckskin Boy Scout Council does not have plans to sell Dilleyﾒs Mill this year, but that the sale, or a partial sale, is not out of the question in the future. Miller also had good news for commissioners about the One Room University idea. He said City National Bank has shown some interest in housing the venture and a second survey for adults and high school seniors is in the works.
ﾕapproved $2,000 in funding from Dramas, Fairs and Festivals for Marlintonﾒs Mural Project.
ﾕapproved budget resolutions for Huntersville Historical School grant funds and an in-house budget revision for the prosecuting attorneyﾒs office.
ﾕapproved an agreement with the U. S. Forest Service for the deputies to patrol national forestlands.
ﾕapproved a change of scope in the Mountain Waters Byway grant for kiosk that will be housed in the Marlinton Depot when it is constructed.
ﾕapproved a grant application for the Pocahontas County Humane Society to upgrade electrical service at the temporary shelter at the ARC building on Second Avenue.