"We were in very high hopes that we were going to have a rural health clinic for Dr. Summerhill to operate out of and also some of our specialists to rotate through. I was told the application was sent in Nov. 30, 2007, and I believe the deadline was actually Dec. 31," Fulton County Administrator Angie Richmond said.
After talking to the state about the application, Richmond was told the application was requested but never returned.
At the May 27 Fulton County Hospital Board meeting Richmond spoke to the board concerning the clinic.
"So, we really don't, at this time, have any hope of getting a rural health clinic," Richmond said. The current state regulations that came into effect after the missed deadline, state there will be no new rural health clinics unless the regulations are changed in the future.
According to Richmond, a rural health clinic receives reimbursement at a much higher rate than does a standard clinic. Since the deadline date has passed for the application to be submitted, the state is currently not establishing new rural health clinics, Richmond said. Although the solution is not entirely clear, Richmond said she will exhaust all options.
"Dona (Hodges, former interm-administrator for FCH) said that she had applied and done the paperwork. All she had done when I contacted the state was request the paperwork. It had never been done," Richmond said.
Local radio station KSAR has pulled the clinic ads and Richmond said the ads would be pulled from K-Kountry 95 immediately.
"It was prematurely advertised," Richmond said.
Richmond also spoke with the billing department and discovered they had not billed any of Dr. Summerhill's patients, she said.
"It is because, not only did we not have a rural health clinic application in process; we did not have a provider number at all for the clinic that he is using out of the hospital," Richmond said.
"We are not sure what obligation this puts us under at this point," she said. " At the very minimum, I am thinking we won't be able to bill for anything he has done. We are hoping that is not the case and that if we throw ourselves at the mercy of the state board, we might be able to."
June 3, Richmond said she will file for an exception. After researching the regulations Richmond might have discovered a guideline that could allow the hospital to apply for the exception because it is a critical access hospital and the clinic was inside the main structure.
According to the hospital the total amount that might not be billable is $5,228.50.
"Dr. Summerhill is wonderful. He is very progressive and a great asset. We are definitely applying for a provider number going forward," Richmond said. The hospital will move ahead and work to get a standard clinic provider number for future billing.
"It won't be a rural health clinic. It will be a fee for service clinic. That is possible. It is just that the rural health clinic reimbursement is substantially higher per visit," Richmond said. The difference in reimbursement can be from two to three times greater. "That is the overall loss," she said.
Richmond said she plans to contact the Arkansas Hospital Association's legal council to review current options and legal ramifications.
Dr. Summerhill said the clinic was started to help fill the void left while Dr. Kauffman was gone from the hospital. "The hope was that maybe it might grow into something more. One of the things we were going to try to do was offer pediatric care because there is a limited amount of pediatric practice in this area," Dr. Summerhill said.
Dr. Summerhill said he had very little to do with the administrative part of the clinic and his focus was on good patient care.
Although the rural health clinic deadline has passed and Richmond said it is uncertain if the state will grant her exception application, the hospital will continue to explore ways to better serve the community.
Dr. Summerhill said he is comfortable working in Fulton County. "I have been to 16 hospitals and this is as good a hospital as any I have been in. I am really comfortable here. This is a good place," Summerhill said.
"We have a lot of plans for him (Dr. Summerhill) in the future. We just have to figure out this piece of the puzzle," Richmond said.