The fate of the Claiborne County Hospital remains up in the air after the March meeting of the hospital’s board of directors.
The board moved its regularly scheduled meeting to March 14 in order to meet before the County Commission meeting on March 18 meeting. Last month, the commission approved a resolution to have the hospital board examine options regarding the future of the hospital — a lease, partnership or another solution.
The embattled hospital is at a standstill as of now; the board cannot move forward with obtaining a loan for computer equipment without the commission’s approval, and the commission will not approve it without looking at different options.
At Thursday’s meeting, administrator Tim Brown told the board during the financial report that the hospital had lost $214,500 in February.
“It’s a pretty dramatic change compared to last year,” he said, adding January and February were usually very busy months because of the flu season.
One of the reasons for the loss is that outpatient visits are down — they are approximately 200 under average right now, he said.
Emergency room visits are also down quite a bit, and last month there were 95 admissions from the ER, whereas the trend is from 150-170 admissions from the ER.
Board member Rob Asbury asked what caused the “precipitous decline” in the total gross revenues during February. Brown answered the drop in outpatient volume was mainly to blame.
After the meeting, Brown confirmed that one cost-cutting measure the hospital recently took was laying off several licensed practical nurses (LPN) and unit secretaries. They are retaining eight of the 20 who were affected by combining positions, so there were around 12 full- and part-time positions lost.
“That should give us an annual savings of around $300,000,” he said, adding that only affected hospital personnel and not the nursing home.
In answer to the commission’s request, the board voted to hire a consultant, Decosimo, to work on options for the hospital. The board voted to take the recommendation before the commission at its March 18 meeting.
“The consultant would be providing information about us to prospective lessors,” said board and county attorney James Estep III.
The consultant will cost $72,000 for the first phase of the project, then the board would be free to decide what the next step will be.
The Claiborne Progress will have the latest on what the County Commission decides in the March 27 edition and on our website: www.claiborneprogress.net.