With a projected loss of $5 million this year, money woes were the evening’s main topic at the Roy L. Schneider Hospital board meeting. Staff issues, maintenance, paying bills, space limits and outdated equipment were just a few of the hospital’s problems aired Wednesday.
The main concern was the approaching October 1 deadline to settle payroll and other debts. In 2011, the government granted the hospital another year to organize finances, so the board does not expect an additional extension.
“From October 1, we’re going to have to meet every cost,” said Cornel Williams, chairman of the St. Thomas-St. John district governing board. “And we can’t wait until October 1.”
“We have to start now,” he said. “We asked for a year forgiveness, and now we only have a couple months.”
Williams said the projected yearly loss could easily increase to $10 million if the government isn’t able to offer promised assistance, noting that a recent $1.5 million appropriation from the government went directly to WAPA costs.
The board proposed a cut of $5.2 million or 6.3 percent from operations.
The board showed concern about being able to fulfill patient needs as summer approaches, noting that last summer the air conditioning system was a problem.
Karen Hodge, vice president of facilities and capital development, said the “chillers” are 12 years old and in need of replacement. At $130,000 each, the new chillers are only one expensive priority that needs to be addressed.
Other desired funds are needed for the renovation of the Emergency Room, an estimated $1.1 million not including architect’s fees and replacing the air conditioning; equipment and stations for hemodialysis, an estimated $66,000; and an unknown amount for a weekend air carrier for blood from Puerto Rico to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The board said it’s having difficulties establishing credit because businesses are demanding the remaining balances for previous jobs before they will continue work or begin a new project.
Collection from patients presented yet another financial issue. When patients are unable to or simply don’t pay their medical bills, the hospital suffers. The board agreed that they need to find a more efficient way of collecting payments.
Senior leadership and department directors have been asked to assist in reducing expenses in their respective departments. Interim-Chief Executive Officer Angela Rennalls-Atkinson promised those reports would be compiled and available for review at the next meeting.
In order to begin saving money, the board set aside nine guidelines. The first few were about quality of service and customer care, and others elaborated on money and downsizing.
Board members said they had been adamantly exploring opportunities to retain staff, voicing disappointment at already losing 14 employees this year. Five of those employees were lost due to layoffs. The rest resigned or retired.
The hospital is trying to keep as many permanent nurses as possible and will begin using circulating nurses to replace travelling nurses. The hospital is also transitioning from a sole staff-provider agency to multiple agencies.
The board said it noticed a high amount of unannounced inspections last month, from groups including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Food and Drug Administration. The Voluntary Hospitals of America Southeast also conducted a mock-survey to prepare for the Joint Commission accreditation visit.
Another matter discussed was the transferring of hemodialysis documents to electronic form. The board said they will miss the April 21 deadline for the transfer because they cannot bring in extra employees to do the work. Instead, they will have to arrange overtime for existing employees to enter the information by hand.
Due to the recent terminating of midwife services at the DeCastro Clinic in Cruz Bay, the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center is expecting an increase in women’s health services. They are currently undergoing projects to renovate, repair the air conditioning, and gather more water resources.
The board announced that 133 women showed up for the Feb. 25 free screening for cervical cancer at the Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute, 107 women from St. Thomas and 26 from St. John. A free screening for oral cancer will be held in April at a time to be announced.
The board meets bi-monthly to discuss the hospital’s financial situation, facilities, staff, departmental issues, patient care and statistics.