The questions still outnumbered the available answers, but there seemed to be some calm offered during a recent meeting between the Pauls Valley Hospital Authority and staff at Pauls Valley General Hospital.
Inquiries primarily focused on issues like financial stability and remaining open despite not yet having a buyer and one concern expressed immediately was what a recent decision to hire a new manager, New Light Health Care, meant for Mercy’s involvement.
Mayor Gary Alfred answered by noting that this does not count them out as a suitor, but at the moment not enough agreement was there to move forward presently with any kind of arrangement or offer that met with their own goals.
“At this time they couldn’t really give us what we want,” said Alfred.
“In other words we wanted a hospital… You can’t ever say they are completely out, but we know what Pauls Valley wants and we feel like Pauls Valley needs a hospital and it’s got to be consistent with that.”
One gentleman inquired as to what could be expected as the line of credit approved earlier in the year for the hospital has seen so much heavy use and whether enough financial stability remained to keep going.
Addressing that question was one of the bankruptcy attorneys working with the hospital authority, Chad Kutmas, who noted that since the chapter 9 filing back on March 1, one of the biggest reasons they’ve relied as much on the loan dealt with a problem they had been working on in the billing department.
“For whatever reason in the past couple of months in September we’ve gotten behind on billing, we’ve not been able to address Medicaid/Medicare issues and we had a deficit amount in accounts receivable in the range of $1-$2 million dollars that should have been here that we probably wouldn’t have had to draw on our line of credit for those issues,” said Kutmas. “If we can speed up our accounts receivable we think we can be in a cash positive position month to month where we’re not so reliant on the line of credit.”
After another employee there asked for clarification on if there would be funds there short term as well as long term from accounts receivable, Kutmas added how this should happen quickly enough to place the hospital in a more stable position.
“We haven’t corrected it, but we’ve gotten caught up enough to where those funds will start coming in,” said Kutmas.
One woman brought up concerns she had about fixing problems like billing by noting how there simply is not enough staff to handle the work load.
“I’m the Medicaid/Medicare biller, I’m one person. We went from an electronic billing system in July and we went to a hand billing system,” said the woman. “I bill over 300 claims a week for Medicare alone and almost 100 for Medicaid.”
Kutmas answered this concern by noting that with New Light now in the picture they will be able to dedicate as many people as needed to help solve these problems.
“It’s a new day in Pauls Valley, these folks are going to look at it and if we need to throw some more bodies at the Medicare billing we’re prepared to do it… They’ve got a billing company with 700 employees and I think we’re going to have access to most, if not all of them if we need them,” said Kutmas.
“I understand your frustration and we’re here to correct that, it’s one of the major issues.”
Also addressing that concern again was New Light CEO/President Todd Biederman, who echoed their desire to help.
New Light Vice President Lee Hughes answered one other worry by pointing how they wanted to change the perception that there would be any employees who would not be included in feedback and problems like statements not going out was not going to continue.
“We have the ability to come in and really help out and put a focus on that area and generate cash quick …What we find in distressed hospitals is you need to grow yourself out of trouble,” said Biederman, noting how his company had actually learned of the hospital’s plight a few years ago, but only recently got involved.
“We want you to be successful,” said Hughes. “We’re going to do everything we can do to make that happen.”
Editor’s Note: More discussion between the hospital authority, new management of the hospital and staff at the facility will be included in a future edition of the PV Democrat.