Improved finances, teamwork at PMH
Pocahontas Memorial Hospital's finances may not be out of the woods, but its financial situation has improved to the point that the Minnie Hamilton Health Systems consulting team will end its contract in September.
The MHHS team was brought on last year when the hospital's finances were tanking to the tune of more than half a million dollars a year. Since PMH board chair Dr. Robert Must discovered the Calhoun County healthcare provider and board members agreed to bring them to Pocahontas County as consultants, the hospital still loses some money, but is in far better financial shape than it was a year ago.
Must said the MHHS board had agreed to extend the July-June contract three more months and he recommended taking them up on the extension.
"By that time, we should be cruising," Must said. "What happens after September 30 is up to us."
Must said PMH could hire its own hospital administrator or find a new management consulting team.
"The Minnie Hamilton team has been here for nine months and we've seen tremendous progress in morale, teamwork, finance, patient safety and patient satisfaction," Must said. "We'll have them another five months and I think we're going to be looking pretty good."
Interim administrator Barbara Lay said the two hospitals have "been joined" and offered help and support both ways.
"It's been a wonderful relationship," she said.
Lay said part of finishing her duties at PMH would include a strategic plan and a performance improvement plan.
However, one of the longterm goals of both the PMH board and the MHHS management team has been to achieve Federally Qualified Health Clinic status. Lay said Thursday night, that was no longer a possibility.
But Rural Health Clinic status is and Lay recommended that PMH pursue that route.
Rural Health Clinic status means that the hospital can be reimbursed for its costs and there is no cap for the amount of reimbursements. RHC designation does mean that some of the county's population has to qualify as underserved. Lay said the high percentage of low birth weight infants in Pocahontas County makes the hospital eligible for RHC status.
As part of qualifying for RHC designation, PMH will move a clinic into the emergency room area at the rear of the hospital.
The clinic may remain open in the medical complex near the hospital, but Lay said moving a clinic into the hospital would allow management to use the doctors and nurses on staff on the hospital floor.
"We can use all our resources," Lay said.
No additional staffing would be required, she said.
In financial matters, PMH shows a year-to-date profit of $83,532, in spite of losses in both the PMH Clinic ($41,889.92 in March) and the PMH Ambulance Service ($32,367.82 in March).
PMH Chief Financial Officer Chad Carpenter said the losses were "frustrating," but noted that the finances overall are "moving in the right direction."
Carpenter told the board that he was writing off more than $84,000 in commercial insurance non-payments because the accounts were more than a year old. In addition, Carpenter said he was turning self-pay accounts up to a year old over to a collection agency.
The hospital board welcomed new member Dan Lewis, who was appointed by the county commission to replace the late Ron Tibbs.
The PMH board meets again in regular session May 19 at 5:45 p.m.