The Fulton County Hospital Board of Governors met Monday, June 23 to discuss among other items the impact of losing Dr. Kauffman as he serves his suspension.
New Hospital Administrator Joe Hammond pointed out that he was researching all of the options available.
"I will be visiting with two other physicians here in the community, and will be asking them to consider admitting here to the facility and continuing to support their local hospital. I've also been having discussions with some of the folks in West Plains," said Mr. Hammond. "My aim was to establish good relations with the two doctors down there at the clinic so that they have a comfort level both with me and with the hospital as well."
Board Chairman Dr. Griffin Arnold also had strong feelings about the loss of Dr. Kauffman. "This is a recruitment opportunity to bring someone in more permanently. It's hard for someone else to come into an area that's already saturated with doctors, but when there's kind of a sudden hole, then if we can find the right doctor, we can get someone who is maybe not quite 50 -years-old to fill some of those holes," Arnold said.
Hammond discussed a strategic plan that he and his team are working on to present to the board in the future that would include possible scenarios to cover the current care gaps.
"This is also the opportunity to explore some different models. Admitting patients is one thing, but rounding them on the floor is a different experience. One of (the models) includes a hospital physician that's here in the house, 24/7. Another model includes one that works both the ER and the floor. So this is all something that we'll bring to the table during the strategic planning process," Hammond said.
The Recovery Audit Contractors (RAC), who will be canvassing state medical facilities to evaluate Medicare payments, will be in the area beginning in August.
"These groups are being paid based on the amount of money that they find has been overpaid. If they find something that's been underpaid, they're not going to pay us back. But if they find something that's been overpaid, they're going to want their money back. It's like any other regulatory experience, when they're sent to find something and it's their job to find something, you can pretty much count on the fact that they're going to find something," Hammond said.
In anticipation of the audits, Hammond asked the board to approve the opening of an account and the placement of $5,000 per month into that account as a reserve for the RAC audit. Hammond also mentioned that his team would be participating in four teleconferences aimed at preparing hospitals for the audits, including what to expect, how to prepare for them and ultimately how to appeal if necessary.
"We are not a very visible target, but I would imagine sooner or later they would come knocking on our door. I would rather we be somewhat prepared than to be caught at the end," said Hammond.
In other business, roof repairs to the hospital are continuing and on track for being finished in approximately two weeks. Additional damage to the roof was discovered, causing a delay and an increase in the cost to the hospital above the original bid price. Hammond asked for and received permission from the board to set aside $10,000 in additional funds to cover the overage.
Hammond then presented his plan for spending the last of the hospital's USDA Loan Contingency Fund. The fund currently has a balance of approximately $113,600. Hammond plans to invest funds in additional handrails for hospital corridors, shelving for the medical records office and additional patient beds to replace the older beds currently in use.
"I have three priorities: Patients, physicians and us. I would really like to be able to spend approximately $90,700 on beds to directly affect the care of the patients here in the hospital," Hammond said.
The Board approved the firm of Hughes, Welch and Milligan to do the annual year end audit for the hospital at a cost of $20,000, with $12,500 for the audit and $7,500 to prepare the cost report.
During a weekly facility walk-through with his staff, Hammond discovered that a transformer which powers the back half of the facility is beginning to fail. He presented the board with an estimate of $16,492 to repair the transformer.
"This transformer, if it goes out, we'll be down on this side of the building for two weeks, because it takes two weeks to build a custom replacement unit. If we take a pro-active approach and plan the time that we want to replace, it will probably be down for six to eight hours over a weekend," said Hammond.
The board agreed that the replacement of the transformer was critical and business manager Denice Innis will check to see if funds from the USDA loan could be used to make the repair.
In other business, Hammond presented a new organizational chart to the board which did not affect the number of employees at the hospital, merely the way those employees related to each other and to other departments.
"I've talked about wanting to see the organization arranged in a logical fashion, according to processes. I have put this together, following pretty much general standards and principals," Hammond said.
Toward the end of the meeting, Board Chairman Dr. Griffin Arnold thanked outgoing board member Vicki Fowlkes for her hard work and dedication to the hospital, and welcomed new member Bill Pace.
"I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the board this last year has been the most active, participating board for helping this hospital. In the years to come, it is going to take a board as dedicated to go through the hardships as we've done this past year, to keep this facility going. So, I do thank you so much for your dedication, the hours spent, your sleepless nights spent thinking about what's going on, cause I know you've all had some," Arnold said.
Then, citing a desire to step down from the chairman position, Dr. Arnold was replaced by Salem Police Chief Albert Roork as chairman of the board of governors, with Dr. Arnold remaining on the board as vice-chairman.
To cover the duties of board secretary which had been handled by Fowlkes, Sue Hertzog was then nominated to take the position and she accepted.
The board then went into executive session to discuss the termination of Sherrie Keylon, and upon their return announced that no further action would be taken. The meeting was then adjourned.