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Hospital sees shortfall in February

Lower patient census and a short month led to a shortfall of $154,000 for February, CEO and administrator Mike Marshall told the Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital board at its meeting Thursday.

That loss put the hospital revenue in the red by $145,375 for the fiscal year to date, he continued.

While Marshall said he was disappointed, overall the hospital is doing well in most areas, according to the monthly Tombigbee Healthcare Authority Report Card. Losses at this time last year were almost $600,000.

The figures, he continued, “show how fragile we are” when it comes to outpatient revenue. The hospital’s fortune depends on outpatient programs and the quality of inpatient care, he said.

He reported the hospital has hired four nurses from the recent University of West Alabama graduating class, and at least two skilled nurses have “walked in off the street” looking for jobs at the hospital.

Marshall announced several new features to facilitate outpatient services:

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A neurology clinic will start April 5.

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Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lester will expand his practice in Demopolis to two days a week, also beginning in April.

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An arthritis resource center, with doctors from Northport, should open the first of May.

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The hospital is looking into developing a sleep lab in the near future.

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With the addition of Dr. John Simmons joining Dr. Leon Campbell, all nights and weekends are covered in the Emergency Room, and he expects physician coverage seven days a week within a month.

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Working with anesthesiologists in Tuscaloosa, the hospital is setting up a pain clinic, with possible expansion for the physicians to serve in the operating room.

“Any services they generate is ‘found money’,” said Marshall. “It keeps people at home without having to travel. It’s good for the doctors, good for the patients and good for the hospital.”

He said the hospital is experiences a cash flow pinch because Medicaid reimbursements from the state are lagging about two months.

On the up side, the Medicare settlement check for some $382,000 was expected to be delivered to the hospital on Friday.

Hospital employees should receive their merit raises in two weeks, Marshall continued.

The merit pay increases are being handled differently than in past years.

“We have been talking about it since October,” he said, and all employees have been fully briefed on the new system.

Board member Tom Perry, reporting on the Employee Relations Committee meeting, said employees showed some concern about the new merit pay raise system. “They are somewhat excited about it…but cautiously optimistic.”

The board unanimously approved the following appointments to the consulting staff for a probationary period from April 1 through October 1: Dr. Patrick Sprabery, pathology; Drs. Joseph Bailey, Bryon Machen and Thomas Moore, radiology, and Drs. Arturo Otero, Thomas Emig and Ben Lucy, neurology.

Dr. Leon Campbell was appointed to the emergency room staff for the same six-month probationary period.

Marshall said the hospital will celebrate National Doctors’ Day Tuesday, March 30, with a picnic from 11 a.m. to 1:15.

Afterwards, he added with a grin, “my esteemed colleagues on the management team and I” will be washing the doctors’ cars.

Hospital volunteers will be honored with a lunch at Bluff Hall on April 22, he added.

The hospital has purchased the property at the corner of Highways 43 and 80. Marshall said bids are being accepted to demolish the existing structure, but no use for the property has been finalized.

He also said the hospital is exploring the idea of opening a 12-bed psychiatric ward on the hospital’s second floor. Initial cost of construction would be $570,000, with the construction company pitching in $200,000 of that.

However, Marshall said several problems need to be worked out, including hiring a psychiatrist and securing a Certificate of Need from the state.