County Commissioners hear a report on the Hospital


    Richardson challenges Committee of 100 and Buster Humphries to appear and defend their lobbying ad

    At the July 12, 2010 County Commissioners meeting one of the items on the agenda was a report on the Beaufort Hospital. The County Commissioners were told by their representative on the Hospital board, Hood Richardson, that the "Request for Proposals" (RFP) being drafted to be sent to potential affiliates to take over management of the hospital are ready for Commissioner and public comment. He distributed copies of the RFP and invited anyone interested to submit comments and suggestions. Click here to download the draft RFP. The RFP contains an excellent overview that described the organizational strucute of the Beaufort Regional Health System.

    The video clip below is that portion of Mr. Richardson's report dealing with the solicitation of public input on the RFP.

    In addition, in the video Mr. Richardson invites Buster Humphries of the Committee of 100 to appear before the County Commissioners to explain "what he knows that no one else knows" about the facts related to the hospital's situation.

    By way of background: Two weeks ago the Committee of 100 took out a full page paid ad in the Washington Daily News that advocated that the Hospital affiliate with University Health Systems (UHS)(Pitt Memorial). The ad purported to make the case that UHS was the best affiliation for Beaufort County. Some have criticized the Committee of 100 and Mr. Humphries for jumping the gun in lobbying in a paid ad for one affiliate when even UHS has not submitted a RFP. The Committee of 100 has also been criticized for not disclosing fully Mr. Humphries current and prior association with UHS, which some have suggested might have prejudiced his lobbying for UHS.

    Obviously proposals from other potential affiliates have not even been submitted. Richardson and other Hospital board members and some County Commissioners have said that they believe you can't determine who has the best proposal before they have been submitted and that all of the proposals should be reviewed by the expert consultant that has been hired to help guide the Hospital in deciding on the best course of action for the future of the Hospital. The consultant has been tasked with helping solicit proposals and then scoring them.

    Others have suggested that the lobbying for UHS might prejudice other potential affiliates from applying, assuming that UHS has an "inside track."

    "The process" referred to in the video was to have been one in which the Hospital Board reviewed all of the proposals and then made a recommendation to the Health System Authority (which is composed of the same people who are on the Hospital Board) and is the legal entity that includes the doctors' practices owned by the System. Those boards then make a recommendation to the County Commissioners, who own the Hospital real estate and hold the long term debt on the Hospital.

    The County Commissioners at their last meeting ask for a recommendation from the Hospital within 120 days.

    In addition to considering the proposals that are submitted, Richardson and other board members, have advocating finding out why the Hospital is in the financial condition it is in and thus determining whether improved management might be a viable option for the Hospital to remain independent. Richardson told the Observer: "I don't see how anybody can pretend to make a judgment about the future of the Health System until we know which doctors' practices are losing money and why the Hospital was losing money. And I don't think that is fully known at this time."

    His comments in this clip flow from that background.



    Check back later for more video from the meeting.

Commentary

    We have done a cursory review of the draft RFP and the accompanying material (i.e. book). We think it is fatally flawed.

    The reason for this conclusion is simple. No where do we find a breakdown of how much each doctor practice is making or losing. No where do we find an analysis of the Accounts Receivables (what the Hospital is owed). There is not even a breakout of how the Hospital per se is doing financially as a separate "cost center" much less which departments/units/procedures etc. are doing financially. The exception to this is the DME Ventures and Eastpointe Health LLC as explained on page 8.

    Much has been made by some of "reduced reimbursements" from Medicare/Medicaid but nothing in the report shows whether reimbursement management has been effective and how effective the System has been in its billling and collection practices.

    Absent these data there is no way anyone can: 1. Ascertain the viability of the System either as a continuing independent operation or, more importantly, 2. a potential partner ascertain the worth of the System or the potential for operating on a breakeven basis.

    Thus, any proposals will be predicated on critical assumptions that are not based on solid data and therefore are simply "shots in the dark."

    Our summation: Seeing this information explains much to us about why the Hosptial is in the predicament it is now in. If it has not been managed any better than the evidence presented here to a potential buyer illustrates then there is no wonder we are in a crisis, notwithstanding all the other "environmental" factors such as reimbursement, the recession and changes in the industry. What a mess.

    While we can see that the Board has little choice but to tweak the document and send it out, we do think it imperative that the Board immediately launch an urgent quest to get the data needed for the "final negotiations" that will come after everybody who's going to bid does so.

    But it is mindboggling to us that the Hospital Board and County Commissioner could let this situation get to where it is without the data outlined above. Somebody ought to be taken to the woodshed over that.

    Delma Blinson writes the "Teacher's Desk" column for our friend in the local publishing business: The Beaufort Observer. His concentration is in the area of his expertise - the education of our youth. He is a former teacher, principal, superintendent and university professor. With his permission, we are more than happy to publish Mr Blinson's most insigtfull articles on the evolving condition of the Beaufort County Medical Center.





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