Hospital strategic plan unclear
October 17, 2019
POMEROY–Chairwoman of the Board Cindy Wolf reported that she had spoken again with Jody Corona, the strategic planner working with the district during the Garfield County Hospital District (GCHD) Board meeting Monday, October 7. Corona had sent a planning packet, and Wolf went through it with her over the phone. The result was that they realized that Corona needs to work with Jim Heilsburg, Chief Financial Officer, to get a “clear financial picture.”
The only other progress made with the strategic plan is that Wolf said they have narrowed it down to two plans of action: partnering with another facility, and having the clinic “branded.” Wolf also reiterated that the GCHD must keep the Emergency Department to be able to keep the Critical Access Hospital (CAH) designation, which allows for higher reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid. She also added that the board is planning a meeting with the Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA) to see if there are any federal funds available.
In the quest for grant money, Wolf reported that the Lewis-Clark Health Care Grant did award the GCHD a $5,000 grant for a biofeedback machine to be used in the Physical Therapy Department. However, the larger grant for which they applied was not awarded.
Another grant that the GCHD applied for with the Blue Mountain Community Foundation was also denied due to the large number of requests received which far exceeded the amount of funds available. A Community Block Grant was also denied. This program benefits low- to moderate-income communities, and Garfield County does not have enough population in the low-income category to qualify. The qualification statistics are taken from the 2010 U.S. Census, and the GCHD is hopeful that more up-to-date statistics will show a different picture.
The GCHD has received assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the past, and at a recent meeting with them, Wolf and the co-CEOs, Mat Slaybaugh and Jayd Keener, were told they would keep the GCHD informed of any future opportunities. Slaybaugh mentioned that he has learned of a grant opportunity through the newly formed Group Health Foundation, which has a large amount of funding that must be spent within the state of Washington. It is possible that the GCHD could qualify for $100,000 per year for three years, without any restrictions on how the money can be used. Wolf added that the Shepherd Foundation Grant applications are also available until the end of October.
GCHD Board Commissioner Chris Herres gave a report of the last meeting of the Finance Committee, where they discussed the budget for 2020, which must be finalized by November 15, 2019. The next meeting of the committee will be November 1, 2019, where they will set the budget, which will then be approved by the board at the regular meeting November 4, 2019. Herres also reported that Heilsburg estimated that the GCHD had about 60 days of cash on hand, which included the money earmarked for repayments to Medicare and Medicaid.
Resolution 19-07 was approved by the board for the appointment of Mat Slaybaugh and Jayd Keener as Superintendents/co-CEOs. The two will continue as they have as interim co-CEOs, with retaining their duties and salaries as Directors of Physical Therapy and Nursing, respectively, for an additional $2,500 per month each as compensation for Superintendent/CEO duties. The appointments were made effective October 8, 2019.
As part of the co-CEO’s report, Slaybaugh announced that the recently hired provider, Victoria Hughes, has backed out of the contract with the GCHD. She had been given a four-year contract, with a student loan forgiveness benefit, and had already started the process of moving her family from Florida by placing a house under contract in Pomeroy. Reasons for her decision were not given. Due to the broken contract, the GCHD will continue their search for two providers. Slaybaugh stated that they have not used a recruiting agency so far, but may have to consider doing that.
Slaybaugh discussed with the commissioners a plan that they are looking into to help fill swing beds at the hospital. Larger hospitals lose money when they have patients who need skilled nursing and rehabilitation services for extended periods of time. The reason for the loss is because these larger hospitals do not get the higher reimbursement rates from Medicare and Medicaid that a CAH receives. However, these types of patients can be transferred to a CAH swing bed for the rest of their recuperation, which allows the smaller CAH to fill beds more easily. Commissioner Jen Dixon asked “how do you compete with home health care?” Keener replied that a CAH has better staffing. Commissioner Gary Houser asked, “What hospitals would be a source?” Some examples named included St. Joseph Hospital in Lewiston, as well as hospitals in Spokane and Walla Walla. It was also suggested that local residents could finish their rehabilitation in Pomeroy after having been in a larger facility elsewhere.
Slaybaugh stated that answers to questions from the first Town Hall Meeting were included in the “Hospital Corner” article in the October 9, 2019 issue of the East Washington. One question from the first meeting was how many of the GCHD’s employees actually live in the Pomeroy area. Slaybaugh was able to get that information, and found that 68% of the employees live in the area. He added that the reason that the percentage isn’t any higher is because most of the out-of-town employees have special skills that are not available locally.