The new ultrasound clinic in Salem got some criticism from the Fulton County Hospital Board in their monthly meeting Feb. 23.
"I know that there's been some concern about the ultrasound clinic (Doctors Diagnostics LLC) going in, and I've talked with Dr. (Michael) Camp, and I've talked with Dr. (Jim) Bozeman," CEO Angela Richmond said. "We've talked with our radiology staff. One thing that's very true is that we need an ultrasound here. We could never, without a lot of extra technical training, do the cardio (ultrasounds), but we could absolutely do the abdominal."
"If we had our own ultrasound tech, it would be to our advantage, especially if they could also share some of the radiology calls, but that's the only way we could be competitive with the clinic downtown," Dr. Griffin Arnold, hospital board chairman, said.
"The ultrasound business that we have right now has dramatically fallen off," Dr. Arnold said. "The ultrasound tech who was coming here regularly on Tuesday and Thursday is now having to schedule time other places because if he's here and there's nothing scheduled then he's not here all those days. So, we're already feeling the dwindling of that service, and it makes it harder to schedule people when you haven't got as many days covered or you can't count on it. I can see it (ultrasound services) just slowly dying. The only way we can do it is if we have a tech that's already here all the time who has that knowledge to do that. That's not going to be a cheap venture to get someone like that. We can't train who's already here and expect that to be helpful for us because of the time factor of how long it would take to send somebody off for school and get certified and come back here and be able to do that. We almost have to (hire) somebody to do that."
According to Richmond, a new ultrasound machine that would tie in to the PACs system would cost $60,000. She said the hospital could get a grant for part of the cost of the ultrasound machine, but she agreed with Dr. Arnold that the expensive part would be getting a tech that could do both ultrasound and x-ray.
Several board members expressed some animosity towards the doctors for opening up the ultrasound clinic and not staying loyal to the hospital. "They've (the doctors) made a choice, basically, in my opinion, over the community," board member, Vicki Fowlkes said.
Dr. Arnold said the board will look into the possibility of hiring a tech that could do both ultrasound and x-ray and any other ways of competing with the ultrasound clinic further.
Dr. Arnold expressed his appreciation for everyone's hard work during the ice storm. "I really do want to thank all of the employees, personally, for all the extraordinary efforts in keeping this place going," Dr. Arnold said. "There's a lot of people who went way beyond the call of duty. They stayed here nights when they didn't have to and knew that they might not be able to get back in. They came in to fix things that needed to be fixed. If you want to say anything that's good about this storm, it's how much this community pulled together. I mean this hospital, the churches pulling shelters together, people checking on people out on the lines. We had a couple of fatalities because of it being cold, but it could have been a whole lot worse. I'm just very, very thankful for this community and how we pulled together in a very bad (situation)."
Richmond gave the financial report. She said compared to December, January saw an increase in the cash account of $34,575 and a decrease in accounts receivable of $174,888. Accounts payable, long and short term liabilities and building loan liabilities all decreased compared to December by a total of $207,196. "All that (the decrease in liabilities) is in the right direction," Richmond said.
Both gross revenue for patient services and net revenue increased. January 2008 compared to January 2009 saw an increase in gross revenue of $304,846 and a year to date increase of $4,973,371. The net operating revenue increased from the same month last year by $189,590, and there was a year to date increase of $2,445,843.
Salary expenses increased, Richmond said, largely due to the ice storm and people getting in overtime hours. Compared to January of last year, the hospital spent $122,552 more in January of this year. The year to date increase is $666,211.
"As we see inpatient days growing, it is good for us, financially, to also see our swing bed days continue to grow," Richmond said. "However, it is concerning but expected with our current economy, to see our cash inpatient days grow from .9 percent in 2008 to 4.34 percent in 2009, and our Medicare inpatient days are dropping. Inpatient self-pay in 2008 was 1 percent, and it went to 7 percent in 2009. Outpatient self-pay in 2008 was at 13 percent, and it went up to 18 percent in 2009."
The reason that there are more people paying for hospital services themselves is that local people are being laid off. "Most of it is people who are being laid off," Stephanie Pierce, patients accounts manager, said. "A lot of businesses have cut back from five days a week, full time, to 16 hours a week, and that's all they get to work. That (the lay offs) is from the hardwood flooring place at Melbourne (Columbia Flooring)." She said many people are getting to the point where they are losing their benefits because they've been laid off or switched from full to part-time.
When all new and old business was taken care of, a closed session was called to discuss quality assurance and personnel matters.
The next Fulton County Hospital Board Meeting will be held March 23 at 7 p.m. in the dining room. The public is welcome to attend.