Tempers flared briefly at the May 27 Fulton County Hospital Board meeting when Trena Spears spoke with the board regarding a Feb. 25, 2007, contract obligating the Fulton County Hospital Foundation to a lease agreement with equipment that was supposed to be leased to the Fulton County Hospital. Spears said the foundation was not pleased.
"All this paperwork has been made out to the Fulton County Hospital Foundation for this scope equipment and it was signed by Dona Hodges and Dr. Griffin Arnold," Spears said.
When a check was to be written for the equipment outlined in the contract, the problem was caught and brought to the attention of the former interim-administrator, Spears said.
"Dr. Arnold was not aware that what he signed was paperwork enlisting him as secretary of the Fulton County Hospital Foundation Incorporated. It also says that the scope equipment leased to the foundation was for tax exempt. Well guess what? The foundation is in an application status. Everyone in this room knows we were not tax exempt. So that's fraud, OK," Spears said. "The foundation board is not happy."
"One, we were never approached about this. We were never asked about this. We knew nothing of this until it came to my attention by the current administration," Spears said.
"To further investigate, I called Olympus (manufacturer) and spoke with Mike Thompson and Mike said the only person that could have gotten the information to him that there was a Fulton County Hospital Foundation Incorporated was Dona," Spears said.
"This could have been a real issue for the Fulton County Hospital Foundation to have had a tax exempt lease agreement when we didn't have tax exempt status. Too, I think Dr. Arnold mentioned to me that he knew ahead of time that the foundation was going to be approached in regards to this contract, but that never occurred. When Denice (Innis) asked, in writing the check, and made a point to point out that it was not correct and it needed to be corrected, it was never corrected," Spears said.
Spears pointed out current Fulton County Hospital Administrator Angela Richmond as the person who corrected the discrepancy. The contract for the equipment now states Fulton County Hospital as the leasee.
Spears presented the board with the new corrected lease agreement, which was approved by the board and signed by board chairman Barry Aldridge.
Salem Police Chief and board member Al Roork presented the hospital board with a contract to be signed, securing Richmond to her position as the hospital's administrator. A contract was presented in March when Richmond was hired but it was never signed.
The new contract grants Richmond several benefits. "Life insurance for the amount of $100,000 to be provided by the hospital, long term disability and half of all hospital related travel expenses will be reimbursed not to exceed $3,000 annually," Roork said.
"We want to get the agreement signed effective today, for six months from today. All she (Richmond) has been able to do is put out fires. Let's let her work and see what she can actually accomplish," board member Vicki Fowlkes said.
There was disagreement between board members in regards to contract wording stating that Fulton County Hospital recognizes Richmond also works part-time with Community Medical Center of Izard County.
"We know she is part-time. We are sharing her. Not too many weeks ago, I sat and talked with Angela for a couple of hours during prime-time clinic-time just to see what her intentions were. I think she wants to be here full-time. I think we should give her six months to make sure she wants to be here full-time," Dr. Arnold said.
Richmond told the board, the hospital was currently not financially ready for a full-time administrator. "I am working as hard as if you were paying me for a full-time administrator," she said. "At this point, if you wanted me full-time you would have to look around this room and tell me which employee would have to go home. We cannot afford to do that."
Fowlkes said in six months the hospital would have a better perspective on growth, expenses, revenue and where the hospital actually stands.
The board took the contract to a vote and it was approved minus one vote from board member Danny Perryman who believed the contract should be reviewed by the board's attorney. "If the board wants to sign it, I don't have a problem with it," Perryman said. "But I think we should have it looked at."
It was agreed the contract was not altered from the first contract which was reviewed by an attorney, except for the date.
Fulton County Hospital Chief Operating Officer Tammy Friel approached the board concerning a new policy in place that threatened to cost the hospital time and money.
"We usually don't bring our policies before the board but this was one policy that was put into effect that the board has input on. It is regarding getting pay-time hours off of our books," Friel said.
"The policy went into effect on May 21. It says that everyone has to use their hours up by July 1, or by their anniversary date or they will lose them," Friel explained. "We have inventory coming up in July and this move coming up in June. If everybody takes their time off, not only will we not have the staff but we will be paying overtime, big time, to try to get this move to take place."
Friel requested the board approve the deadline be moved to the end of the year.
"Just move the date a little further down the road so everyone will have more time. We can get the move out of the way, get inventory out of the way and then they would have time to take their vacation so we wouldn't have to pay all the overtime," Friel said.
The board considered the request and moved to push the date back to the end of the year, but only as a temporary change to the policy. Next year the July deadline will be effective.
In other hospital business, the new voice and data system has been installed and is functioning with good results, Fulton County Hospital Chief Information Officer Philip Hughes said.
"The transition went very smooth," Hughes said.
The only problem that arose was with the hospital's 40-year-old paging system, which Hughes said has now been completely bypassed and removed from operation.
The new system has an array of features including voice-mail and call groups, among others. Hughes pointed out an aspect of the system that he said will benefit the hospital in a time of technological crisis. The customer service and support is built into the contract with the system's provider, Cisco Systems.
"If we do have hardware failures come up, a switch or a router or something like that go down … part of our contract with Cisco is basically four-hour repair. It is one of those things we won't see a lot, but the assurance is there should it come up," Hughes said.
"We have went from a single unmanageable box to a highly sustainable gigabit secure power over Ethernet LAN infrastructure," Hughes said. "What we have gained is tremendous."
The hospital has implemented a policy of sending an itemized statement of services to its patrons. The mailing also includes a "thank you" letter showing appreciation for using FCH.
Richmond said the average inpatient census is up and it is a positive change. Although Medicare patients are down slightly, there are a higher number of patients who have insurance to cover their costs. The hospital's new push for swingbed services is also showing positive results.
With his finger on the pulse of the hospital, Dr. Arnold made a statement that began a domino effect of hospital praise from employees who were present to the board itself.
"I have tried to talk with every department head … and generally speaking, everyone is happy to work at Fulton County Hospital. People are happy and it is spilling over into the patients. I have not seen that or felt that in the 15 years that I have been here," Dr. Arnold said.
What followed were testimonies from employees and board members alike, laced with intermittent explosions of applause.
"I want to commend you, this is the first time I have felt in a long time that we are truly on our way to success," one meeting patron said.