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KH board lauds longest serving members as transition begins

Posted: October 29, 2015 4:39 p.m.
Updated: October 30, 2015 1:00 a.m.
Martin L. Cahn/C-I

Trustee Dr. Tallulah Holmstrom is the other trustee whose term has expired from the KershawHealth board. Obgurn presented her with a certificate and present as well, thanking her for her service, including her focus on improving quality outcomes for patients at KershawHealth.

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The KershawHealth Board of Trustees congratulated three of their own Monday night as they met for the last time as the governing body of the county’s public hospital. When members meet again Nov. 9, they will do so as trustees of the Health Services District of Kershaw County. They will do so not at the Health Resource Center where they did Monday night, but at the Karesh Long Term Care Center, the only aspect of healthcare delivery in the county the board will oversee.

Newly installed Chairman Derial Ogburn chose the end of the meeting to recognize trustees Bobby Jones and Dr. Tallulah Holmstrom for their years of service to the board. Holmstrom and Jones reached the end of their terms at the end of September, but will continue to serve until Kershaw County Council decides on replacements. Ogburn also recognized past chair Karen Eckford.

Ogburn noted Jones’ pending rotation off the board will end decades of public service at both the local and state levels.

“Bobby Jones has served in so many capacities, I would hate to even begin to try to name them,” Ogburn said. “You’ve served our county, he’s served his community, he’s served the state in so many positions over the years and he has sat on this board for seven years, has been engaged and involved.”

Jones recalled being appointed to a zoning and planning commission in the 1970s by the late State Sen. Donald Holland.

“This guy came in and wanted to put up a Bible store … and I made the motion to change the zoning to commercial,” Jones said. “Two days later, I found out that guy changed his mind and he wasn’t going to be put up a Bible store, he was going to put up a beer joint. During the next two weeks, I got about 45 phone calls and got cussed out and so forth.... I’ve been around since 1970-something. I’ve enjoyed it, and I think this county is a better place to live, to go to work and go to school and to raise our youngsters and grandkids. I’m not going to go too far; I’ll be around here.”

Of Holmstrom, Ogburn said she “fought hard” on the board.

“You have contributed tremendously and we regret we’re going to lose both of you, but I just want to thank you for all you’ve done for this board and this hospital and the hours you put in. I’ve tried to cheat off your paper so many times,” he said.

Ogburn said Eckford is one of the “toughest” and “smartest” women he’s ever known.

“I thoroughly enjoyed watching you serve as chair,” he said. “You have dedicated two years and spent many, many hours. Congratulations to you and take a back seat and continue to do good work for this hospital.”

Jones, Holmstrom and Eckford each received a certificate of appreciation and a gift.

Ogburn also talked about the end of the board’s current mission and transition to the next.

“When we adjourn here tonight, we’ll be leaving as the trustees we have been for a long, long time. And the next time we convene, it’ll be with a little different mission,” Ogburn began. “It would have been easy for us to come in here tonight and have a little meal, enjoy each others’ company and ask a question or two and go home. But that’s not what happened. We did just like we’ve done all the time we’ve been here; everybody was doing their job. I’m proud that this board would do that right up until the last minute.

“Unless something dramatic happens, this deal will close and next week, there’ll be new signage on the hospital and we’ll have a different role in our community. Who knows whether what we have done is the right thing or not? None of us know. I think we all are hopeful that it is the right thing, but with the changes going on across this country in healthcare, what’s it going to look like six months from now, what’s it going to look like five years from now? None of us know.

“But I think we have engaged with partners that will give us the best chance in this community to have quality healthcare for a long time to come, hopefully.”

Starting just after midnight Sunday, Capella Healthcare of Franklin, Tenn., and MUSC Health, the patient care arm of the Medical University of South Carolina, are set to begin operating the rest of KershawHealth as a for-profit enterprise. A new, local advisory board will be put in place to assist Capella in setting policy.

The board’s new mission will focus on governing the Karesh wing, including considering building a new facility on parcels it purchased which once made up part of the former Pine Tree Hill Elementary School (PTHS). In addition, the board will also spend future meetings deciding what to do with the old Burndale Shopping Center on East DeKalb Street in Camden. The board authorized the purchase of the shopping center in 2008, which once included a bowling alley, with the intention of transforming it into an outpatient center focused on women’s health.

Capella and MUSC Health chose not to lease the Karesh unit nor purchase any of its assets, although it did enter into a management agreement to operate the center on the board’s behalf. The companies also chose not to purchase the old PTHS property nor the Burndale Shopping Center from the board.

During Monday’s meeting, trustees heard its final report on KershawHealth’s finances. CFO Mike Bunch reported KershawHealth suffered a $1.5 million net loss in September compared to September 2014. He said two “unusual” factors hurt the bottom line: the lack of a $415,000 “meaningful use” payment tied to electronic health records the hospital received the year before, and an additional $295,000 pension expense.

Other factors included:

• Surgeries down 23.5 percent from September 2014, and 6.2 percent down for the fiscal year.

• September admissions down 17.4 percent compared to a year ago, and down 2.4 percent for the fiscal year.

• A somewhat higher length-of-stay (the time a patient spends in the hospital), which incurs higher expenses without additional reimbursements.

Bunch called September “a tough revenue month.”

“Our volumes were down significantly … and our expenses were down this year versus last year, but not at the pace that the revenue was done,” he said.

Bunch also reported cash and investments dropped to $29.5 million or only 88 days on hand, with three issues contributing to the decrease: a $1 million bond payment, having three payroll periods during the month of September and payments on former PTHS property.

There were positives for the fiscal year, including a rise in emergency department and urgent care visits, according to Bunch. However, Holmstrom asked why, if this is so, KershawHealth increased its primary workforce by 10 percent versus emergency department staff.

Also, Trustee Susan Outen said the level of full-time equivalent (FTE) staff is not matching the reduced patient volumes. KershawHealth CEO Terry Gunn said he, too, was concerned to see the difference between FTEs and the number of occupied beds.

Gunn also said administration is troubled by KershawHealth’s market share, especially when it comes to key specialty areas. He said administrators are speaking with primary care and specialty physicians to determine what “roadblocks” there may be for patients to access specialists.

 

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