The CEO of Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital sought to lay out the hospital’s financial woes and a possible solution to the hospital territorial board, but some members didn’t want to hear it.
Jeff Nelson was to report on the hospital’s status to the board meeting of the V.I. Hospital and Health Facilities Corporation, known as the Territorial Board, which oversees the two hospital districts (St. Thomas–St. John and St. Croix) and two hospitals, Schneider Regional Medical Center and Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix.
At Friday’s meeting – two days after Nelson had recommended a management restructuring to the JFL board – he was distributing copies of his report when chairman Lynn Millin Maduro objected, based on the document’s title.
Nelson’s document was titled "Transformational Plan (Bankruptcy Exit Plan.)" Maduro said the board was not prepared to hear recommendations for changes, and he was only to present a status report. She told him the other material should have been submitted long in advance so the board could have time to evaluate the recommendation.
It wasn’t fair, she said to spring it on the board.
Maduro also chided Nelson, saying that the board should not be learning of his proposal through the media. His recommendations at Wednesday’s JFL board meeting were widely reported.
Nelson agreed to present an overview of the report, which outlines the hospital’s current financial difficulty. The budget for the 2011 fiscal year, which ended Friday, shows an approximately $10 million ending deficit. By contrast, the budget for the 2012 fiscal year shows an almost break-even bottom line.
The $100,000 deficit in operations was caused, Nelson said, by the V.I. government lowering the hospital’s income from tax revenues. But the staff and administrators have tightened expenses and embarked on a hospital-wide improvement of systems and processes.
A report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) raised serious concerns, he said, but the hospital is working on allaying them.
But the biggest problem facing JFL, he said, is the $27 million it owes its vendors, along with $36 million in deferred capital needs and $50 million owed to the V.I. government. Combined, that leaves the hospital more than $100 million in the hole, he said.
When the territorial board turned the page in the report to a page headed "JFL’s Capital Raising Options," Maduro again halted the presentation.
"Your presentation should be a status report," she said. "It should not consist of capital raising options."
JFL board chairman Valdemar Hill assured her that the report was not requesting action from the board at that time. But they thought the territorial board should know the situation and how JFL administrators were leaning.
Joyce Heyliger, secretary of the JFL board, pleaded with Maduro to allow the discussion to continue, saying the hospital faced a critical situation that had to be faced. If not now, she asked, when could the issue be discussed.
Maduro said the next territorial board meeting is scheduled for December. A special session might be able to be scheduled for earlier, but might have to be a teleconference. But if such a session is scheduled, she said, Nelson will have to submit his report well in advance to give board members time to look it over.
She also admonished the CEO for pages missing from his report. The pages are clearly marked but do not run sequentially. "It leads to the idea that we are not getting the full story," she said.
Nelson admitted pages were not included, but only because they were not germane to the discussion. The report is 22 pages as it is, he said, and he didn’t want board members to have to wade through pages of spreadsheets and other information that did not bear on the question of the hospital’s debt.
The discussion ended with Maduro standing firm on not continuing the discussion at that time. Whether the board will schedule a special meeting to discuss the issue or will wait until its December meeting was not determined.