Breathing easy and dealing with the problems plaguing Pauls Valley General Hospital has not gone together well in recent years, but for the first time in several months; a glimmer of hope may be on the horizon.
Much of that feeling came during a special Pauls Valley Hospital Authority meeting Wednesday and though an end all solution was not part of it, Mayor Gary Alfred believes steps are now being taken to give the facility the best shot it's had in a while.
It began with the solidification of the management agreement with New Light Health Care to make it official and also featured a report from officials like soon to be interim CEO Jim Clough since they arrived only days ago.
“The report we received we were very happy with, as a result we will receive some direction,” Alfred said.
“It's baby steps, but we're not crawling,” he said. “They understand our situation, so far it's been a good mix. The new CEO made it clear he will be on board with the authority to do whatever needs to be done to save hospital.”
Along with finalizing the up to three-year management agreement, the authority also voted to approve a contract for billing services with EqualizeRCM, through New Light's recommendation. Alfred pointed out how this was necessary since one of their most immediate concerns is dealing with problems that have developed in the billing department.
“Obviously that's our number one priority,” said Alfred, noting how the billing agreement will involve individuals coming in and assessing what needs to be added or improved to generate the best cash flow.
“It would have been real easy to quit. I think people want to keep the hospital, but they want to see some direction.”
Alfred noted how these problems include getting statements out after people have stayed in the hospital and other issues with accounts receivable.
He spoke again of image and how the appropriate changes will help encourage the public to use the hospital more. Another one of the fixes mentioned was getting the operating room back into shape by upgrading features in the room like air conditioning.
Alfred said it has long been something in need as the room was never properly designed, creating a problem with humidity and was left inefficient as most of the operating was done previously in the morning when temperature was less of an issue. Some the avenues explored will be cost effective ways to permanently fix this, including a new air conditioner and it should be determined once the state health department notifies them of what needs to be done to meet all of their requirements.
“It's not in a good shape at all,” said Alfred. “If we can get the hospital turned around there's a lot of support for it.”
Alfred even mentioned the half cent sales tax as something that will need the help of a manager to make sure it is presented the right way and with clearly defined purpose. Once revenue is improved enough the tax will help with the purchase of items they are in need of like a mammogram or CT scanner.
In the end, he wanted to make sure people understand that the plan for the future may not even include a buyer and that New Light will help them determine if it is possible to continue to run the hospital as a separate entity with the help of a partner. This could include New Light or another hospital entity and that they would only want to find a buyer at this point if they were able to do more negotiating than they've been able to.
“It's not so much a buyer, but finding a partner… We want to get to a point where there is some leverage options,” said Alfred. “We think to ever have a chance at a sales tax we need a company to help get things ironed out.”
Editor's note: Look for a story featuring a discussion with departing PVGH CEO Bridgette Cosby in Tuesday's edition of the PV Democrat.