Several Claiborne County Commissioners attended an informational session last week at the courthouse, which had been recessed from the Hospital Board’s regular meeting. The session was to educate commissioners on why the hospital is asking the county to back a $3.5 million loan.
“We don’t want to use it for operations,” explained administrator Tim Brown.
The loan is for a hardware and software system from a company called Cerner t0 help the hospital meet the federal deadlines set up to get medical facilities across the country to use electronic medical records.
The loan would also cover the company’s travel, training and installation, Brown added.
Commissioners asked several questions, including why the hospital board asked for the entire $3.5 million when it has more than $3 million in reserves. Brown said they would like to use the reserves as a “net” in case it is needed.
Some were concerned the hospital is operating at a net loss of about $600,000 — which Brown noted was down from a loss of around $2.2 million two years ago.
Board member Mike Robertson explained the hospital would recoup the $3.5 if it meets the government’s standards and guidelines.
“Your options right now are to go this route or get rid of [the hospital],” Robertson said.
“If the hospital is going to be here in 2015, we have to do this,” said Dr. Richard Clark, the chief of staff for the hospital.
“I just don’t know how much the taxpayers can handle,” said commissioner Danny Longworth. “I think we can keep the hospital, but I’d like to see a comparison of the annual cash flow for the last five years.”
Several hospital board members explained the hospital must have the system in place and meet the federal rules or lose the entire amount invested in the system, plus be penalized by having Medicare payments reduced.
Some commissioners wanted to know the average daily census for the hospital.
“We’ve had approximately 19 patients a day for the last three months,” said Brown. “We keep trying to match costs, but it’s getting harder.”
The subject of leasing the hospital was raised, with commissioner Bill Keck asking if the system would or could be used by another organization if it decided to lease it.
Brown answered that it would, noting the whole idea of electronic medical records is to get easier access to a patient’s records from anywhere in the country.
“With a lease, you’re talking about losing the hospital and losing control,” said Robertson. “If you don’t go through with this, you’ve made the decision as county commissioners to sell the hospital.”
The entire hospital board was in attendance including Mike Robertson, Russell Essary, Bill Dunavant, Rob Asbury, Lindsey Cadle, Tom Zachary and Chester Gibson.
Fifteen of 21 commissioners were present. They were Steve Mason, David Mundy, Mitchell Cosby, Hugh Singleton, Mike Campbell, Bill Keck, Juanita Honeycutt, Bill Brooks, Barry Thomas, Ann Bowling, Danny Longworth, Dennis Estes, Joan Cosby, William Jessie and James Hatmaker. County Mayor Jack Daniels and County Attorney James Estep III were also present.
The hospital board met for its regular meeting on Feb. 19.
The next county commission meeting is scheduled for Feb. 25.
The hospital loan item, which must be sponsored by a member of the commission, was not on the agenda at press time.