"A gentleman called complimenting the care he received in the ER and the southwing, and said he was very pleased with the care he received here," Thompson reported. "I just wanted to pass on that we are starting to get those calls. We've made a lot of changes and it's good to get that confirmation of some of the changes that have been made."
While Thompson believes four months of Ozarks Medical Center management has improved patient care and finances, she is still discovering issues that need be be addressed.
February was the best month of the fiscal year for inpatient admissions, and the second best for swing bed admissions. Spending for salaries and supplies were down and the month showed an increase in cash flow.
A negative for the month was an unexpected bill for the hospital's contribution to the state unemployment insurance program.
The bill was higher than normal, because the hospital had not been making regular installment payments. Thompson added, however, it is higher than it should be, because some past employees are collecting unemployment benefits that are not justified.
"When I initially reviewed the finances for Fulton County Hospital, it seemed like unemployment expenditures had been rising over the past several years, and we realized those were not being worked -- that people (the hospital) had not been appealing the claims that we had been receiving," Thompson said.
From research she has done, Thompson said, when an employer receives an unemployment claim that is questionable, it must be appealed in a certain number of days or the claim is approved. Thompson believes a number of former employees are receiving benefits when they should not.
"Our government has extended those (unemployment) benefits for much longer than used to be paid, so we will be on the hook for several of those," Thompson said. "There are people, unfortunately, that are on our list that did not really qualify for unemployment benefits that we are paying. Some quit -- that (quitting) is not eligible for unemployment. Some were let go for cause and we should have appealed and fought those. So there's some issues out here that we should not be paying, but we are."
Thompson told the board Human Resources is checking with the state to see if claims can be appealed after approval.
Looking to the future, Thompson said unemployment fund contributions will be paid in installments to spread the cost out, and all unemployment claims will be closely scrutinized and claims that do not appear valid will be appealed.
"So that's why the Employee Benefit line is higher for the month -- and also why we had a loss for the month. We would have actually had a net income for the month, had we not had that expense," Thompson said.
When it comes to the monthly loss, the hospital has certainly seen worse.
The February net loss was $33,035, compared to the expected budgeted loss of $160,169.
Eight months into the fiscal year, the hospital's net loss is $509,228, which is $514,230 less than expected.
According to Thompson, key indicators are "all moving in the right direction."
In other business, OMC President and CEO David Zechman expressed hope the board would be interviewing three finalists for hospital administrator in about 30-days.
Zechman said OMC's physician recruiter screened about 10 applicants. "Kim and I, this week, are doing four interviews. Once we finish those, we will determine whether we should bring any of those back for you all to interview, " Zechman told the board.
According to Zechman, finalists for the administrator position will spend a day at the Fulton County Hospital, and a half a day at OMC, so the board and OMC management can get an idea of which finalist would be a good fit for the hospital.
FCH will pay the administrator's salary and benefit package, and the cost of recruitment. Zechman indicated OMC is trying to hold down the search cost.
"We are doing it ourselves at OMC, instead of hiring a physician recruiter, so it is saving Fulton County Hospital a significant amount on search fees, and our recruiter does a magnificent job," Zechman told the board.
Hospital Chief of Staff, Dr. Rebecca Phillips, reported that the physician staff saluted and thanked Dr. Jeff Summerhill, who has left the hospital this month after several years as an emergency room physician.
"We were sorry to see him go, but we expressed our appreciation for the years he helped us out," Dr. Phillips said. "He came at a time we really needed help, and he filled that need in the years he was here."
Besides his emergency room duties, Summerhill did colonoscopies.
As reported last month, OMC physician Dr. Christopher Cochran has begun Friday hours at FCH, performing colonoscopies and upper G-I scoping. Dr. Phillips is hopeful Cochran will increase the number of patients the hospital sees for the preventative proceedures.
"Dr. Cochran will be here regular hours, and we feel more people will do colonoscopies if they don't have to travel," Phillips said. "After doing the preparation (for colonoscopies), they don't want to get in a car and drive an hour."
Dr. Cochran prefers to consult with patients the week before their proceedure, to explain the process and answer questions, and to do the scoping the following week.
"This past Friday (March 23), he did four procedures and three consults, and he will do those procedures next week (March 31)," Thompson said. "We're hoping that (the patient load) will start to improve, and we'll see additional numbers there."
During the board meeting, Dr. Michael Moody offered the assistance of the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care to help the hospital choose a software provider, as it begins work to switch to an electronic medical record system, as required by Medicare and Medicaid.
Dr. Moody, who is the Chief Medical Officer for the AFMC, explained that the foundation has evaluated more than 100 providers and systems, and can help the hospital choose the best and most economical system to meet its needs.
As discussed at the previous board meeting, the hospital, which is newly out of debt, must find a way to finance the conversion, which will cost between $500,000 and one-million dollars.
Moody reminded the board that the earlier it begins implimenting the system, the more federal funds will be available to help pay the cost.
The medical board's next regularly scheduled meeting will be April 23 at 6 p.m. Meetings are held in the hospital's conference room, and are open to the public.