PMH To Remain A County Owned Hospital For Now

Marlinton, WV – At the October meeting of the Pocahontas Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees, a committee of board members and hospital staff was tasked with considering three options for the hospitals future operations – staying with the status quo, making some significant operational changes or becoming a division of Minnie Hamilton Health System. Interim CEO Barbara Lay, of MHHS, used the financial reports from auditors Arnett & Foster to demonstrate the problem with staying with the status quo.

“If you look on the balance sheet under where it says Net Assets, in 2005 our organization or I use the analogy of our home was worth more than $4.5 million dollars” says Lay. “And in 2005, we overdrew our checking account by about $103,000.00 – that’s our operating loss.”

That trend continues over the subsequent years with the value of the hospital decreasing as the operating losses continue to rise. Lay says it would eventually lead to the closing of the hospital.

“So if you look at the change in the equity of the organization, we went from 4.5 to 1.7 [million dollars value] in five years” says Lay. “Which means if we continue down that road this would be the year that the Sheriff would come knocking on our door because we were insolvent. This shows you that things can’t continue the way they were.”

PMH is already implementing option two – making operational changes such as bringing the billing back in-house, and cutting overtime wherever possible. Continuing with those changes could put the hospital back in the black for the first time in six years. Dr. Bob Must, chairman of the board, says Option three, becoming a division of MHHS, would mean that PMH would no longer be a county owned hospital.

“The status of the hospital would have to change to a 501C3 organization” he says “and in making that change there would be the requirement to put the hospital up for bid on the courthouse steps.”

The problem with such a sale is that a larger hospital corporation could come in, outbid the PMH organization, and possibly remove the equipment and close the hospital. Dr. Must says Boone Memorial Hospital in Boone County WV, also a county owned hospital, is going through this very process right now. He says the PMH board is watching carefully to see how it proceeds.

With all this in mind the committee recommended choosing option two, making operational changes, but also keeping the third option on the table.
A motion to do so passed unanimously. The board also approved a mission statement and a list of values prepared by the committee to serve as a guide for the hospital.

In other business, the Board approved $1900.00 for an assessment of the clinical software used by the hospital. Lay says the assessment will show whether or not the software is not working properly or if it’s just being used improperly. She says they also caught a letter about a critical source of revenue for the hospital just in time.

“Every so often you have to reapply to Medicare for participation” she says. “Your previous administration forgot to submit that application. Thank goodness they did give us a 30 day notice that November 20th would be our last day to participate.”

She says Steve Whited immediately got to work on getting that application submitted because if the hospital can’t get Medicare payments, it also can’t get Medicaid.

The Board also approved an agreement with Hospice providers for transport of patients if a hospital ambulance crew is available. Board member Don McNeel feels it may set a dangerous precedent to take on non emergency transports. But Barbara Lay says reimbursement from Hospice is better in some cases and reiterated that it’s only if an ambulance crew is available. McNeel offered to recuse himself from the vote as he is a member of a competing rescue squad.

The next meeting of the Pocahontas Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees is December 16th.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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