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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

New Nursing Director and OMC plan to promote Fulton County Hospital

Friday, February 3, 2012

Maria Amorim, the new Director of Nursing at the Fulton County Hospital, is calling on her nursing staff to "step up patient care." Amorium believes that is the key to attracting more patients. Photo by Richard Irby [Order this photo]
"This is a very nice hospital and we have some great nurses, but, to increase our number of patients, we need to step up patient care," Maria Amorim told The News.

Amorim, the new Director of Nursing at Fulton County Hospital, has developed some strong opinions in the three months she has worked at the hospital.

She strongly believes the nursing staff and all hospital employees need to be concerned with more than just patient care.

"I told the nurses, 'You can be the best advocates for the hospital, by making sure patients have a good experience in the hospital, and by being positive and supporting the hospital out in the community,'" Amorim said.

Amorim moved to Arkansas six years ago, because her husband, Clyde Burchard, wanted to return to Mountain Home, his hometown.

Amorim, who grew up on a farm in Iowa, served six years in the Army, working in the Patriot Missile program. She later obtained LPN and RN degrees in nursing, and recently earned a Bachelors degree in Nursing from Arkansas State University.

"I had been working at nursing homes in the Mountain Home area, and decided to apply for a part-time night nurse opening at the hospital here, to refresh my hospital nursing skills," Amorim explained. "People in Mountain Home told me not to come over here (Fulton County Hospital), it's getting ready to close."

Amorim said she immediately liked the hospital and the people she worked with, and was happy when the Ozarks Medical Center agreed to take over day to day management.

"OMC has the expertise to run the hospital, and is already making changes to help turn it around," Amorim said.

As she introduced herself at the Jan. 23 meeting of the Fulton County Hospital Board of Governors, Amorim described how she starts her day by going to each patient room, to make sure patients and their family members are comfortable and getting good care.

"If a patient or family member needs something, I want to know about it," Amorim told the board. "Good care is the best advertisement for the hospital."

OMC President and CEO David Zechman, who was in attendance, agreed.

"It's a long process and it takes time to change perceptions. You're right on target," Zechman told Amorim. "That's where it has to start, right here at the bedside."

Zechman and interim administrator Kim Thompson went on to describe an OMC plan to promote the Fulton County Hospital through community events, public meetings and advertising.

"We want people to know that we're working together, that we have a partnership here," said Zechman.

Thompson said, on Feb. 10, the hospital will offer free health screenings, in conjunction with Heart Health Month. In March and April, the hospital will host two community meetings at the hospital, to highlight services available at the hospital, and discuss health issues.

"I want it (the health screenings) in this building," Thompson told the board. "People need to come in here and see how nice this hospital is, and what we have to offer."

OMC also plans to buy ads in area newspapers and Avenues magazine to, according to Thompson, "get the word out that Fulton County Hospital is here and ready for business."

In other business, Thompson told the board the $1.7 million dollars paid for the hospital's home health license has been placed in escrow for 60 days. All but $87,000 will be available to the hospital in mid-March, a date hospital leaders are looking forward to.

"When the money is available in March, we'll get all debts paid and kind of start with a clean slate," Thompson said.

"That (escrowed money) is just like a present under the Christmas tree," said Board Chairman Bill Pace. "You can see it, but you cannot get it."

"Exactly," Thompson laughed, about the 60-day wait for the funds.

$187,000 will remain in escrow for one year, to provide funds to deal with any legal issues that may arise, dating back to the years the hospital owned the home health license.

Until the home health license funds become available, cash remains tight, but the final amount the hospital owed Medicare at the end of January was less than expected, and a Medicaid reimbursement was a little more than estimated. In addition, the Bank of Salem has agreed to waive a $25,000 line of credit payment which was due, agreeing to accept payment in full in March.

Unpaid hospital bills remain one of the hospital's most perplexing debt problems. Bad debt expenses for the month of December 2011 are listed at $213,458, and bad debt for the six months ending on Dec. 31 was $1,177,212.

Thompson discussed two efforts to deal with bad debt, which are bills patients without insurance have not paid.

Dr. Griffin Arnold is writing a new emergency room policy, in which patients will be evaluated and, if their condition is not a true emergency, they will be advised a certain amount will have to be paid for treatment, or they will be given other options, such as contacting a private physician.

In addition, the hospital will no longer wait 40 to 45 days for payment from a "self pay" patient. A private company will be given accounts of patients who do not have insurance, and begin working with them right away about a payment plan. If those efforts are not successful, unpaid accounts will continue to be turned over to a collection agency.

December records show a continuing trend of an increase of self pay patients, and a decrease in patients with private insurance.

In December, Thompson and emergency room physicians were in talks about possibly not having a physician on duty 24 hours a day. Instead, to save money, a physician would be on-call during late night and early morning hours, able to respond to emergency room calls within 30 minutes. The decision has since been made not to begin the on-call system. The emergency room will remain physician-staffed 24 hours a day.

The next regular meeting of the Fulton County Hospital Board of Governors is scheduled for Feb. 27 at 6 p.m.

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