Recruiting additional physicians to Texas County Memorial Hospital is a top priority at the county hospital, board members heard at their monthly meeting last Tuesday.
“Healthcare services in rural America are a very valuable resource, and we should not take them for granted,” Chris Strickland, chief executive officer at TCMH, said. “Without our physicians, we would not be able to provide healthcare to Texas County and the surrounding areas.”
TCMH employs an in-house physician recruiter, Helania Wulff, who also directs public relations and marketing at the hospital. Wulff’s duties as physician recruiter include screening physicians, developing relationships with those she contacts, making travel arrangements for interviewees, arranging tours of the hospital, clinics and area when a practitioner visits, and maintaining contact with those interviewed by the hospital.
It also utilizes outside recruitment agencies that are retained on a contingency-only basis and look for physicians to fill a specific need in the hospital. If the hospital signs a physician that an outside firm has located, the hospital pays a fee to the agency.
Providers that Wulff speaks with are usually very interested in the package offered by the hospital. “Our total physician package is very competitive and very “physician-friendly,” Wulff said.
Wulff explained that student loan repayment opportunities through National Health Service Corps continue to draw healthcare providers to look at employment with TCMH. Due to Texas and Wright County’s status as “medically underserved,” healthcare providers can receive loan repayment or forgiveness for hundreds of thousands in student loans by working full-time or part-time in a TCMH clinic.
“Almost all of our area healthcare providers have received student loan repayment or forgiveness, which is a great recruiting tool for us,” Wulff said. “Unfortunately, many providers leave TCMH after their loans are forgiven or repaid because they seek a different lifestyle or practice opportunity.” The physician retention reality faced by TCMH is no different than what is found in other rural healthcare systems, the hospital said.
“Our positions at TCMH give physicians the opportunity to see hospital inpatients and to do hospital procedures as well as seeing patients and having a clinic practice,” Wulff said, adding that hospitalist positions across the nation are hiring internal medicine and family medicine physicians that want to practice only in the hospital.
“One physician makes a significant difference in our overall physician numbers,” Strickland said. “Every time we offer a contract to a physician, we hope that they will stay with the hospital for their career. Unfortunately, that’s just not the reality in today’s mobile environment.”
Currently, TCMH is recruiting three additional physicians for the TCMH Medical Office Complex and a physician for the TCMH Licking Family Clinic. Site visits have taken place with four physicians in the past three months who have an interest in practicing in a medically underserved area.
“Contracts have been offered to these physicians who would practice traditional inpatient and outpatient healthcare,” Wulff said. “We are hopeful that one or more of the physicians will make the decision to work at TCMH.”
REVENUE FALLS; ’22 DEFICIT CLIMBS
Linda Pamperien, TCMH chief financial officer, presented the May financials which reflected a decrease of $642,269 in overall revenues from budgeted expectations for the month.
“Our inpatient volumes took the majority of the hit this month and were down $682,757, a 37.8 percent decrease from budgeted expectations,” Pamperien said.
The contractual adjustments at TCMH – the difference between the charge for care provided and the amount of money the hospital receives for the services – were higher again for the month.
“Our outpatient revenue was in line with budgeted expectations for the month with a $10,452 increase,” Pamperien said.
Pamperien noted that the hospital’s overall expenses were down $176,983 for the month.
“We continue to see a reduction in COVID cases,” Pamperien said. “Our COVID expense was under budget by $177,455 for the month.”
The hospital ended May with a negative bottom line of $658,172 and a year-to-date loss of $2,047,669.
“This is very alarming with the hospital only being five months into the year,” Pamperien said. “In addition, we will be losing three more physicians in the next few weeks who generate significant revenue for the hospital.”
In old business, Strickland said all the microbiology equipment has arrived and should be fully operational in the TCMH laboratory by the end of July. The equipment will enable the hospital to do blood, urine, and wound cultures in-house rather than sending the cultures out to a larger laboratory. In-house microbiology will add to overall improved patient care with faster turnaround times ensuring the correct antibiotics are being utilized to fight an infection which would allow patients to get discharged faster.
Courtney Owens, TCMH chief nursing officer, reported that Home Health of the Ozarks passed its Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services follow-up state inspection on June 27 with no deficiencies.
“I am so proud of our Home Health staff for embracing the required changes and working diligently to be compliant for the inspection and the future,” Owens said. “We have the best team that truly cares about all aspects of patient care.”
Jeff Gettys, TCMH Healthcare Foundation director, said the foundation’s annual golf tournament was a great event with record success raising $21,523.
Gettys mentioned that the hospital would be supporting the South-Central Missouri IRT wellness mission that began this week at the Piney River Technical Center. During the mission, military personnel offers basic medical, vision and dental services to the public at no cost. TCMH will provide biohazard disposal and medical equipment.
Present at the meeting were Strickland; Wulff; Pamperien; Owens; Gettys; Jonathan Beers, DO, chief of staff; Renina Pearce, medical staff coordinator; board members, Jim Perry, OD; Joleen Durham; Steve Pierce; Allan Branstetter and Jay Loveland.
The next regular meeting of the TCMH board of trustees is noon Tuesday, July 26, in the hospital board room.