The Fulton County Hospital Board elected Dr. Griffin Arnold as the new board chairman at their June 23 meeting after former chairman Barry Aldridge stepped down after years of service to the community.
Although it is the board's custom to elect the member serving the longest to replace the out-going chairman, Salem Police Chief and Fulton County Hospital Board member Al Roork had another opinion.
"Griffin (Dr. Griffin Arnold) has been out there at the hospital for 15 years, there everyday. There are things that need to be done by the chairman, questions to be asked, and he has by far the greatest knowledge of the internal working of the hospital. If he would do that, it seems to me that he would be the most logical person," Roork said.
Other board members concurred. "I have thought about this a lot," board vice chairman Vicki Fowlkes said. "This is the inaugural year of our new facility. I think it would be very fitting that a longtime community physician who has served in the community for many years, served on hospital board for many years and other things, be the chair of that year."
With a motion and a second on the table, Arnold spoke. "I think I would like to say something," he said to an eruption of laughter of meeting guests and board members alike.
"Well, I guess I am very flattered. Again, I don't know if I am as qualified to be the chair as anyone else. I know it is a very important job and I do love that hospital," Arnold said. "I will accept."
Vicki Fowlkes was asked to remain vice chairman and said she happily accepted along with Sue Hertzog as the secretary.
In other business, Fulton County Hospital Administrator Angela Richmond said she is seeing positive numbers in the hospital's finances.
"I have taken calculations to see how many hours it takes the staff to take care of one day of symptoms. Last year it was 280 hours that had to be worked that day. This year we are working a little bit leaner at 189.79 hours. What that really means is last year it took 35 employees to take care of the hospital for one day's symptoms; this year it is taking 23. That shows our nursing staff is working leaner and doing a better job. Those are good numbers to me," Richmond said.
Although the hospital is still tackling debt and deficit, Richmond said the numbers are looking good. "Astounding numbers," she said. Currently admissions are up 141 percent from last year at the same time. In-patient days are up 241 percent, emergency room visits are up 18 percent and adjusted patient census is up 96 percent.
It was also discussed that some employees will be placed on flextime to better service the hospital. Flextime will allow the hospital to manage the rise and fall of service intensity with the changing need for staff.
For instance, in a situation where there is a high need for staff on hand, the same level of staff would not be necessary at a time of low intensity, which will save on salary costs.
Board member Jerry Blevins suggested the use of $300,000 in unused construction funds to pay on debts.
"FHA has retained $100-and-something-thousand that they thought we would have to pay them in interest. We didn't have to pay them because the building got done. We are going to get that back. The contractor finally said that he thought we could have $100,000 back on our general conditions on the building contract that we didn't use," Blevins said.
Richmond said another $100,000 would be available due to the free landscaping being done by the Fulton County Master Gardeners.
According to the board, there is a plumbing problem under the kitchen of the old section of the hospital. The board hopes the money for the fix can be taken from the new construction's contingency fund as well.
Chief Operating Officer Tammy Friel has been placed on the Bank of Salem signature line after a unanimous board decision.