Hospital board approves adult psych unit, reports positive revenue

With verbal approval from the Alabama Department of Public Health, work is expected to begin Monday, Dec. 14, on the Adult Psychiatric unit at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital.

Assistant administrator Derek Morrison, reporting to the hospital board at its meeting Thursday, said contractor Al Sanders will set up shop Sunday night and be on site until the work on the hospital is completed. The estimated date for work to end is April 1.

Finance Committee chairman Charles Singleton gave the report card after October, the first month of the fiscal year. The hospital saw revenue of $135,000, in contrast to the same time last year of a negative $282,000.

In his report to the board, CEO/Administrator Arthur Evans said a lot of smiles could be seen around the hospital that day after bonus checks were handed out for the first time in several years.

Evans said he took part in a conference call in November with the deputy director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to express concerns of rural hospitals.

One of the pressing issues, which is gaining traction around the country in rural areas, is the Area Wage Index, the method by which hospitals are reimbursed for Medical patients. Alabama, said Evans, has the lowest Area Wage Index in the country, including Puerto Rico, and rural hospitals in the state are looking for equity.

CMS is proposing a change in the index. Evans said if Congress takes action on leveling the playing field, BWWMH could realize up to $800,000 in additional revenue.

Giving an update on the state push to establish Regional Care Organizations, Evans said the proposal could reduce costs for Medicaid care, which is the biggest item in the Alabama budget. The intention through the five RCOs in the state would be to reduce inpatient care, increase outpatient services and provide more preventive care.

“We’re doing it on our own,” he said. Other states have hired organizations to set up similar systems, but those groups take a percentage off the top.

Evans said the Alabama legislature must approve the RCO proposal being presented by the Alabama Hospital Association in conjunction with doctors and medical providers around the state. If the legislature gives the okay, the RCO network can go into effect in October of 2016.

Evans said Chief of Staff Dr. John Kahler has asked for a review of the medical staff bylaws and should be ready to present them at the January meeting.

The board approved two new committees proposed by chairman Jay Shows. The first is a Marketing/Public Relations Committee to be chaired by Michael Patterson.

The second, approved after an executive session, is the Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) Committee. Members assigned are Dr. Judy Travis, Jan Holley and Rob Fleming.

The PHP Committee is expected to enter negotiations with the Marengo County Board of Education for the possible use of the former John Essex High School campus. The program now is housed in the Holifield Clinic building but is rapidly outgrowing the facility.