Pocahontas Memorial Hospital Discusses Their Financial Issues with the County Commission

Two special sessions were recently held by the Pocahontas County Commission to discuss financial issues at Pocahontas Memorial Hospital. Mary Beth Barr, the CEO of Pocahontas Memorial Hospital and Becky Hammer, the CFO of the Hospital addressed the commission at both of these meetings about possible assistance with a financial crisis brought on by the coronavirus emergency.

The first meeting was held on Friday, March 27th, and the second meeting was held on Tuesday, March 31st. Because of social distancing, both meetings were held in the circuit courtroom on the second floor of the courthouse.

At the March 27th meeting, Barr and Hammer explained that due to the coronavirus situation, the hospital’s revenues dropped dramatically in the third week of March, threatening their ability to meet their upcoming payroll. They said that revenues for the hospital were poor for first six months of the 2019-2020 fiscal year, however there was a positive turnaround in revenues in January that lasted until the bottom fell out later in March which will likely continue at least through April, since they were told by the state to stop performing all elective services due to the virus crisis. Those services make up a very large part of the hospital’s total revenues.

They said that the rural Health Clinic was also suffering. Instead of the clinic’s usual sixty patients a day, because of the Governor’s stay at home order, patients stopped coming to the clinic, resulting in a drop to about twenty patients per day. They said the hospital has been doing a lot of telemedicine, but they are not being paid for doing that, although government reimbursement for that in several months.

Although there have been no Covid-19 patients so far at the hospital, Hammer said they need to be prepared for that to change by purchasing additional ventilators, adding to the four ventilators they currently have and adding other medical equipment.

Barr and Hammer said they need to borrow up to two hundred and fifty thousand dollars from a local bank and asked the commissioners to possibly cosign that loan if the bank requires that.

Hammer summarized their current financial issue:

  • The hospital currently has about a hundred and fifty-five (155) employees and they have not yet had any layoffs.
  • They currently have two lines of credit -one of which is secured by a two-hundred- and fifty thousand-dollar ($250,000) CD, but there is no money available in those to meet the next payroll.
  • The bi-weekly payroll is about Two-hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars ($275,000) or about Five hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($550,000) per month.

Hospital Board member Tim McClung suggested that they borrow enough money to meet their payrolls for several months rather then keep coming back to the bank for additional loans.

In a separate matter, Barr told the commissioners that they would like to hire Dr. Richard Durham, a Greenbrier Pulmonologist who wants to move his practice here, which would increase hospital services and revenues. However, they would need to renovate space in the building for his office and treatment rooms. Start up expenses for this would be about a half a million dollars, according to Barr and Hammer.

Commission President David McLaughlin noted that a lack of revenue for the past two weeks could not be the sole cause of this financial crisis, as it has been brewing for some time.

Commissioner Walt Helmick remarked that the hospital was bringing two issues before the commission. The first being the inability to meet the next payroll, and the other to hire Dr, Durham. He said they must first figure out how to meet the next payroll first before considering expanding the staff.

Commissioner Jessie Groseclose said he would like to see a five-year profit and loss statement detailing how each department in the hospital has fared, because they might need to consider trimming non-profitable departments and expanding profitable ones.  

The commissioners ended that meeting without making any decisions other then to schedule a second special session on this topic for Tuesday, March 31st.

At the March 31st special session, at the request of JL Clifton, an attorney and member of the Hospital Board, the commission went into a highly unusual and questionable executive session for most of the meeting.

When the commission returned to regular session, it was explained that the hospital was in a very promising discussion with Pendleton Community Bank to resolve their immediate financial issues without any commission involvement at this time. Barr said these discussions involved possible deferment of existing loan payments with the bank for three months and a possible new six-month loan for about $500,000 with no co-signer needed.

Commission President Davis McLaughlin asked JL Clifton to provide a summary of most of what he discussed with the commission during the executive session.

According to that information which JL later provided this reporter, there was a discussion of misunderstandings between himself and the commission, and he told the commissioners that cutting any of the departments at the hospital would not solve problems, just deprive the community of hospital services.  JL also told the board that merging or affiliating with any outside hospital organizations would not be in the best interest of the community. He discussed the financial loss of one million dollars by the hospital in 2018, which they survived and turned around. He stressed the need to work closer with the county commission and suggested that that both they and the hospital’s board should take guidance from each other to help the hospital.

The commission adjourned the meeting as there was no immediate need for commission action at this time regarding any of these matters.

Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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