New doctor signed at county hospital

As part of the monthly meeting, Mark Hampton took an oath as a new board member last week for Texas County Memorial Hospital.

It was administered by Fockler. Hampton, a Summersville resident, was appointed to the TCMH board of trustees by the Texas County commissioners following the December resignation of Larry Southern.

Fockler thanked Hampton for agreeing to fulfill the remainder of Southern’s term, which continues through April 2009. Fockler also recognized the service Southern, who recently died, provided to the TCMH board of trustees.

“Larry was very supportive of the work done by the employees at TCMH, and he was proud of the things he was able to do as a board member,” she said.

Murray reported to the board that Diana Koenig, D.O., signed a three-year contract extension with TCMH to continue to work at the Summersville Community Clinic.

TCMH also last week signed Russell Huq, M.D., a family practice physician from Arlington, Texas, to work in the TCMH Medical Complex in Houston. Huq’s contract is for four years, and he will begin working at TCMH in September when his residency program is complete.

“Dr. Huq will be an excellent addition to our hospital medical staff,” said Joleen Senter Durham, director of physician recruiting. “Although he wants to see patients of all ages, he is particularly interested in geriatrics.”

Murray reported that in addition to ongoing patient satisfaction surveys, the hospital also recently asked all employees to complete an employee survey.

“The survey asked about 20 questions pertaining to how employees feel about their job, and the work that they do,” Murray explained. “I am very pleased that over 80 percent of our employees are ‘somewhat satisfied’ to ‘very satisfied’ with their jobs.”

The Customer Quality Team at TCMH has asked the hospital’s administrative team to provide a time for employees to review their answers to the survey. Murray said a day will be set aside for employees to review survey results and get feedback from hospital administration.

“I am happy to see this going forward,” Fockler said. “The employees need to understand they are an important part of our hospital’s success.”

The federal stimulus package may benefit the proposed TCMH expansion project by allowing an increase in the total amount of bonds that can be issued at one time.

“In 2009 and 2010, up to $30 million in bonds can be issued at one time as opposed to the previous $10 million limit,” Murray explained.

“If we are able to proceed with our project in the upcoming two years, we can save additional funds by doing one bond sale for $18 million,” Murray said.

The single bond issuance would also lock in one rate for the bonds rather than risk an increase in bond interest rates.

Murray is also watching federal legislation that may change the “critical access” designation given to hospitals. Currently, critical access hospitals are limited to 25 beds, so the number of inpatients at one time is limited to 25 patients.

TCMH is licensed for 66 beds, but when averaged annually, the hospital has less than 25 patients in the hospital every day. Some days the hospital census may spike well above 25 inpatients, but there are also days when the census is well below 25 inpatients. Critical access hospitals receive a cost based reimbursement that can make the critical access designation more lucrative for certain hospitals.

“Over the last four years, we have averaged 22 to 16 inpatients daily,” Murray explained. “Due to the reimbursement available to critical access hospitals, this new designation is intriguing for us to look at more in depth.”

TCMH did not finish 2008 with a positive bottom line, according to Pamperien. The December numbers showed a negative balance of $220,115.

“There will be adjustments in some areas after the audit,” Pamperien said. “But it may not equal our losses.”

Murray noted that December has historically been a good month for hospitals, but even emergency room visits were down at TCMH in December 2008.

“Healthcare has always been seen as recession-proof,” Murray said. “That is not the case any longer.”

Dr. John Duff, Cox Health representative, noted that the Cox Health system also had a very poor December. “We were also way behind in our budget,” he said.

Emergency room volumes were also down for January, according to Pamperien. “When the ER is down, it affects all departments,” she said.

The hospital ended January with a negative bottom line of $874.

“It’s not a bad start,” Pamperien said. “In the next few months we should see some changes as our physician staffing changes.”

Present at the meeting were Murray; Pamperien; Durham; Duff; Dr. Charles Mueller, chief of staff; Dr. John Paulson, resident physician; Colette Briggs, infection control nurse manager; Kirby Holmes, laboratory director; and board members Fockler, Hampton, Jane Kirkwood and Janet Wiseman.

The next meeting of the TCMH board of trustees is noon Tuesday, March 24, in the downstairs meeting room of the hospital.

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