In a meeting of county leaders Friday, May 19, including commissioners, city council members, school superintendents and congressional representation, Texas County Memorial Hospital brass gave updates and heard feedback.
TCMH Chief Executive Officer Stace Holland gave a welcome and called the meeting to order. Courtney Owens, chief nursing officer, presented an update on nursing. To better recruit and retain nurses, the hospital has maintained competitive wages and has implemented and improved benefits such as health insurance, retirement, retention bonuses, signing bonuses and tuition reimbursement. She reported that the hospital has hired 25 nurses since Jan. 1. Due to this, TCMH has reopened its intensive care unit to the licensed four beds.
“It’s been a vital need for this area to have the ICU reopened,” said Owens.
“We’ve got a great set of nurses here and we hope to retain them.”
April Crites, quality assurance/risk management director, reported that patient satisfaction scores are increasing, with the first quarter of 2023 having higher scores than any quarter in 2022. In its most recent Press Ganey patient satisfaction survey, TCMH ranked equal to or higher than 97% of the 2,335 hospitals in the Press Ganey database for nursing communication. This surveys patients on things such as if the nurses treated them with courtesy and respect, if they listened carefully and if they explained things in an understandable way. In the same survey of 2,335 hospitals, TCMH housekeeping ranked in the 99th percentile for cleanliness. In 2022, TCMH decreased its readmissions from 18.3% to 13.5%, with a cost savings of an estimated $250,000. She also reported that the hospital plans to begin serving patients in its outpatient surgeries and procedures expansion in July.
Linda Pamperien, chief financial officer, reported that despite financial statement losses, the hospital has maintained positive cash flow, with earnings before interest, depreciation and amortization totaling $839,195 in 2022. She also reported that bad debts decreased by 67.6% in 2022. Additionally, inpatient volumes only accounted for 16.4% of the total volume in 2022, compared to approximately 24% in 2021, a number the hospital looks to increase.
“We are one of the few facilities that are not affiliated with a federal organization, we’re community providers.”
Jeff Gettys, TCMH healthcare foundation director, gave an update on the recent legislature session. He reported that SB 70, an omnibus healthcare bill, is expected to help TCMH. Positives included student loan repayment, expansion of residency programs and prescription label updates. SB 51, which allows access to physical therapy services without first needing a physician’s referral, was also seen as a positive. He also spoke on HB 1239, which is an effort of Phelps Health to correct a legal mishap they made when forming a clinic in Dent County – a violation of current law forbidding county hospitals to put healthcare facilities in counties where a hospital already exists. This has caused financial issues for the Salem hospital. The proposed bill would get rid of the law forbidding these actions.
Helania Wulff, director of public relations, marketing and physician recruitment, gave an update on physician recruitment and marketing. She mentioned interviews with several physicians, multiple signings and recruiting efforts. TCMH is actively recruiting a full-time general surgeon to service the new surgery center.
For marketing, she gave an update on extensive marketing efforts committed to recruit obstetricians, with a goal to havefive by next summer.TCMH plans to partner with Dent County to provide OB services for that area, since they closed their labor and delivery program. Wulff also played a jingle the hospital plans to use in radio advertising to increase awareness about their different services and overall brand.
TCMH recently went to a new ER physician group and Holland believes it to be a great decision.
“What we have seen from that group is less patients being transferred out, which is fantastic,” said Holland.
Hospital leaders also gave an update on the operating center that is expected to be done soon. So far, state appropriations have helped offset approximately $364,000 in expenses for the operating center. TCMH has set Oct. 15 as the opening day. For the future Licking clinic, appropriations fell through for a potential ambulance base update. Currently, an orthopedic specialist sees approximately 25 patients every other Wednesday.
Anita Kuhn, TCMH controller, gave an update on clinic operations and community support. She reported on several physicals – ranging from free to $5 – that have taken place in the county recently. Additionally, she reported that the OB department in Licking has been growing, and that she is actively looking to add more insurances to the list of accepted ones.
Holland gave an update on the Loretto House remodel, which is located across the street from the hospital behind the pharmacy. The hospital intends to use it as temporary living quarters for new doctors. After years of vandalism, termite infestation and wear and tear, the current goal is to make the house livable.
An update was given on the upcoming TCMH Healthcare Foundation Golf Tournament and other community efforts. Those include but are not limited to participation with the area chambers of commerce, the Licking rodeo and the Veterans Appreciation Day.
Following these reports, county leaders were encouraged to provide thoughts on the hospital and other area matters. John Casey, county commissioner, spoke on getting better transportation for those who have trouble getting to doctors. Kevin Stilley, city of Houston alderman, asked if the hospital has had trouble finding housing for potential physicians. Hospital members reported that they have been fortunate in finding housing but would like to see more housing development within the city. Marie Lasater, county coroner, reported that the departments she corresponds with have done a good job compared to previous years.
Finally, a representative from Jason Smith’s congressional office in Rolla gave an update on federal happenings. An item of note was the increased interest in transparency of hospital services pricing.
The meeting adjourned after over an hour of discussion. Those attending were invited to stay to discuss opioid funding and solutions spearheaded by the county commissioners.