Hospital board meets with court

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Terrah Baker

Staff Writer

The Fulton County Quorum Court attended the Fulton County Hospital Board's monthly meeting March 24 to create a plan to save the county's ambulance service.

The court was presented with the monthly financial report and a variety of explanations from hospital board members concerning the hospital's financial situation.

Vicki Fowlkes, board member, said that although the financial report showed earnings of over $100,000 for the month of February, that is not necessarily what the hospital is bringing in.

"If we collected everything we billed, those would be hard numbers. The only hard numbers on this whole sheet of revenue and expenses is the expenses ... The income and patient revenue compound are soft numbers," Fowlkes said. "So, if you're looking at this saying, 'Oh my God, they have $168,000, they don't need money from anywhere,' it's not hard money."

Barry Aldridge, chairman of the hospital board, said that the hospital would have to see almost a year and a half of profits on paper before actual profits could be made. Aldridge added that the hospital has had five months of positive numbers on the financial report as of this month.

Expenses from loans and payroll were discussed as other reasons why the hospital needs financial support from the county.

"If you take out the building loans, we still have some huge numbers out there. Our accounts payable is basically $370,000, accrued payable is $33,000, leases are $326,000, accrued payroll is $104,000 and vacation time and employee benefits are $65,000," Aldridge said.

Fowlkes explained that in February the hospital spent over $9,000 a day for payroll and benefits for employees, a majority of which are from Fulton County.

"That also lets you know how much money we have to bring in a month to be able to make that payroll," Angela Richmond, the hospital's administrator hired at the February meeting, added.

Aldridge then discussed the future goal of the hospital, based on how it has become most productive in recent months, and explained how the ambulance service will be one of the main contributors towards the hospital finally becoming profitable.

"We're really going to an urgent care facility center with emergency room doors right out front ... If you look at the past 12 months, our emergency room services have had 5,114 visits. For a small area that's a very active emergency room. Along with that emergency room is that ambulance service," Aldridge said.

Once the financial report was broken down by the board members for the benefit of the court, it was passed unanimously by board members and solutions to the ambulance problem were discussed.

Fulton County Judge Charles Willett began the conversation by saying that the county has spent over $60,000 and appropriated another $100,000 on the recent flood damage and may have to borrow money from another source. According to Willett, the county cannot, as of now, afford to help support the ambulance service with the current budget issues it is facing.

One of the solutions presented by Aldridge was a voluntary or mandatory $50 property tax for the citizens of Fulton County.

"The person in that household, their ambulance ride for the year would be free as far as out of pocket expenses ... We would charge (their insurance) but there would be no deductible," Aldridge said.

Willett estimated a total of 3,000 households in Fulton County which would mean revenues of $150,000 a year from the proposed property tax.

Although one court member said he thought $50 a year was a good deal, others were convinced that the people of the county would not agree to the fee.

No final decisions were made about the ambulance's financial situation, but both the board and the court agreed to meet again for further deliberation on the subject.

In other business, Richmond has begun to distribute tasks to individuals who will serve over specific sectors of the hospital.

Philip Hughes was hired as the hospital's information technology specialist and described to the board his plans for change and growth in productivity of the hospital.

"There's a lot of exciting changes being made. We're focusing on waste reduction and maximizing productivity," Hughes said.

His plans include a focus on a unified communications system and changing from paper to electronic filing. These changes will allow for a more organized system where billing can be done more quickly, expenses and waste incurred with the use of paper can be minimized, and a greater amount of privacy regulations and functionality can be reached.

Richmond said that by the week of March 30, 99 percent of all hospital filing and billing will be done electronically.

Dona Hodges will be the Chief Nursing Officer over all nurses employed by the hospital while Tammy Friel will be Chief Operating Officer. Friel's responsibilities will include risk management, utilization review, compliance officer and quality assurance.

February hospital stats

The monthly reports showed there were 86 inpatients at the hospital during February, up from last year's total of 69. A total of 461 people used the emergency room in February. Dr. Griffin Arnold saw 88 of those patients, Dr. Jim Bozeman 78, Dr. Michael Moody 1, Dr. Rebecca Phillips 51, Dr. Kuzas 81, Dr. Summerhill 148 and Dr. Wozniak 14.

During the last 12 months 5,044 people have used the emergency room at the Fulton County Hospital. Doctors working the ER were; Arnold 1,224; Bozeman 1,254; Moody 6; Phillips 940; Kauffman 820; Kuzas 366; Summerhill 368; Wozniak 66.

During the past 12 months 818 people have been admitted to FCH. Of those 818 patients, 630 were Medicare, 23 were private insurance, 47 were Medicaid, 5 were Ped Medicaid, 6 were Champus, 63 were insurance and 44 were cash.

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