Barry Aldridge represented the Fulton County hospital board at the Quorum Court meeting March 10 and made a request for an additional $60,000 a year for the hospital's ambulance service.
The hospital currently receives $20,000 a year from the county and Aldridge explained to the board how that amount covers only the lease for the ambulances.
Aldridge presented the court with an Ambulance Profitability Analysis in order to show the need for additional funds. Along with the $75,278 direct loss in operating expenses, the analysis showed a loss of $314,694 in uncollected funds from hospital patients.
Although gross charges for the hospital through Medicare, Medicaid and self-pay amounted to over $600,000, the hospital only collected just over $300,000 of those funds. That is only about 50 percent of the money that should have been paid to the hospital for its services.
When asked why these funds were not more successfully collected, Aldridge responded bleakly.
"We would love for anyone to give us an idea how to collect those (funds). We used to be able to go get a judgement through the court system, but that system was no longer available for us a number of years ago," Aldridge explained.
In response to Aldridge's request, quorum court members stated their concerns about where the funds would be coming from.
"We have no idea where we would find $60,000. We have the same situation that you guys have, our pockets are pretty slim," Jim Becker, a quorum court member, said.
Another quorum court member stated that in order to supply these funds to the hospital, the income of the county would have to be increased and most likely through a user income tax that the whole county would share.
"Well, the hospital is going to have to do something," Aldridge responded. "We understand that the county is not made of money but we also understand that the hospital has to be as profitable, or as close to profitable, as we possibly can be in order to make it."
If the quorum court were to accept the hospital boards proposal, the hospital would receive an additional $5,000 a month from the county. According to Aldridge, that's the only way the ambulance service can afford to not be taken over by outside companies.
"I know $5,000 seems like a lot of money, but it's reasonable compared to what these other companies want to come in and charge," Aldridge said.
County Judge Charles Willett explained that the county has been operating on the same turnback funds since 1984 and in order to help the hospital, some major changes in the budget would have to be made.
"We're going to have to find some way to take something away," Willett said.
After over an hour of deliberation, the court decided unanimously to attend the hospital board's monthly meeting March 25 after they review the county's funds, and to discuss the matter further.
In other business, a full time Office of Emergency Management Coordinator will have to be found soon before the county's certifications run out.
Currently, Al Roork, police chief of Fulton County, has filled the position of part-time OEM coordinator for almost eight years, but has said that the responsibilities of the job have become too much for him to handle.
"There are so many certification classes to go to that I don't have time. You need a full-time OEM (coordinator)," Roork explained.
According to Willett, the county has to stay up-to-date with its emergency management coordination training by attending these regularly scheduled classes or the county will loose funding from the federal government.
Willett estimated the cost to the county for a full-time OEM coordinator would be about $20,000 a year for salary and benefits while travel expenses for the training classes would be reimbursed by the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management.
The board voted unanimously to seek out someone interested in the $9 an hour position.
Mold was found in the county jail that has caused an estimated $6,361 worth of damage. It has soaked into the walls, floors and caused illness among the employees.
According to Willett an inspector will be visiting the jail and decisions on the most effective way to handle this problem will be discussed at the next Quorum Court meeting.