Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

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February 3, 2014

PVGH CEO to develop plan to sell home health

emann@pvdemocrat.com — Among the many steps to turn around Pauls Valley General Hospital financially has included at times cutting services in order to dedicate limited funds to the rest.

However, while services like surgery will one day be a part of plans to return it to the medical facility, PVGH CEO Jim Clough recently asked the PV Hospital Authority for authorization to explore the best option to remove a less viable area of practice. That area is the hospital’s home health agency and after gaining unanimous approval, he will develop a plan to find a buyer in the near future.

“That was an item I had discussed with you previously. After that meeting I met with the home health staff, explained to them my recommendation, the financial situation of the agency and I just don’t see where we have the resources that we would need to turn that around to be competitive,” said Clough. “It would be very, very expensive… We don’t have the marketing program, we don’t have the cash.”

To put it in perspective, Clough noted that if they decided to keep home health, the projected operating losses could be as much as $300,000 annually. He added how that money could instead be used to focus on things like buying equipment for the eventual return of the surgical department.

The last time Clough checked, they had about 18 patients in the home health program, which is not a sustainable count when one compares it to a viable agency that needs around 50 to break even. What he will do first is talk with City Attorney Jay Carlton and find out what the legal processes necessary to sell it are and then he will solicit and identify potential buyers, while finding out what the value would be overall.

Though Clough did not know for sure how many home health agencies operated in the area, he noted how his best guess is no less than 6, which he has observed through when agencies that are assigned to a patient at the hospital. He pointed out how some of these employees are typically shared with hospice and the plan is to offer them a chance to work through that as well as find other nursing opportunities within the hospital, or even go with the potential buyer.

Once Clough has determined the best way to sell the program, he would then come back with a recommendation for the authority to vote on. He noted that larger hospitals still may offer home health, but there aren’t that many smaller hospitals that offer it as a service these days because of the same difficulties.

“What I told the staff was that one objective would be to keep them employed and if they had an interest in staying in the organization to let me know,” said Clough. “Most of them have indicated they would rather stay with the organization and be a part of hospice.”

Clough believes that the hospice organization actually has the potential to grow and plans to explore services in markets where they do not operate for a chance to expand. He has had some preliminary discussions with some companies already expressing interest and stated that he’d like to see some kind of decision made in 60-90 days.

“We will just be out of the business,” said Clough. “There’s several other home health agencies that already operate in the area so it’s not a matter of people not having availability of service, there’s actually too much availability.”

Editor’s note: More comments from Clough about the hospital, including improvement plans for the Emergency Room department will be featured in a future edition of the Democrat.

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