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Schneider Hospital CEO Updates Board on New Ventures, Challenges

As the St. Thomas-St. John hospital district governing board met for the first time in 2014, Bernard Wheatley, chief executive officer of Schneider Regional Medical Center, reported on the hospital’s areas of growth, including a disrupted joint venture with a renal dialysis services provider.

In late November 2013, Schneider Hospital started pursuing a joint venture with DaVita Inc. in order to provide end-stage renal dialysis services in the district. However, according to Wheatley, the ongoing negotiations are continuously being disrupted by the Caribbean Kidney Center, its former provider, with “false accusations and misrepresentation,” he said Wednesday.

In a letter dated Jan. 22 to V.I. Health Commissioner Darice Plaskett, Caribbean Kidney Center is asserting, said Wheatley, that Schneider has no right to sell or transfer ownership of its services.

“Quite to the contrary, the Virgin Islands Code empowers the hospital to ‘make and execute contracts and lease agreements to attain greater financial self-sufficiency,’” Wheatley said.

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Caribbean Kidney Center also alleged, according to Wheatley, that DaVita will replace all local workers and manage the venture without consulting Schneider Hospital or the V.I. government. Wheatley said the matter has been referred to legislative counsel and to the commissioner of Health.

Wheatley also gave an update on the medical waste storage situation, which picked up again in late December when the hauling company failed to pick up four trailers full of medical waste. Wheatley said the Christmas holidays caused a “logistical nightmare” that resulted in a brief backlog in waste disposal between Dec. 31 and Jan. 6.

By the time the Department of Planning and Natural Resources came to inspect the storage situation, the trailers were already picked up by the V.I. Regulated Waste Management, Wheatley said.

New negotiations are under way with CIGNA, Wheatley said, to waive more than $1 million in overpayment filed by CIGNA for inpatient and outpatient services between October 2011 and March 2013. Schneider is proposing to waive the outstanding balance and to renegotiate terms of reimbursement.

“There have also been concerns that CIGNA is leaving the island,” Wheatley said, adding that is “completely false.”

“Blue Cross Blue Shield is also looking at the small groups that United Healthcare once had,” Wheatley said.

Wheatley also reported that emergency room patient flow should improve significantly. New ER equipment is expected to improve turnaround time for tests and results, and the patient wait time should move toward the four-hour national benchmark.

Schneider is currently searching for a vice president for facilities management as Karen Hodge, who used to hold the position, was reassigned as director of facilities, Wheatley reported.

A search is also being conducted, he said, for a vice president of quality and performance improvement and for a chief operating officer. Negotiations are under way with James Muzarelli, a candidate for chief information officer.

Wheatley also updated the board on violence-related injuries treated at Schneider Hospital in 2013. Blunt force trauma topped the list with 152 cases, costing the hospital $337,877.23. Rape cases totaled 146, but it cost the hospital about $1.4 million in treatments. The hospital also treated 45 cases of stab wounds for $226,040.36, and 33 gunshot wounds for $61,232.04.

Wheatley briefly mentioned that a proposal to merge Schneider and Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix is “on the front burner as well as the back burner.”

Present in the Schneider boardroom were Board Chairman Cornell Williams, board members Maria Tankenson-Hodge, Judith Richardson, Wilbur Callendar and Greta Hart-Hyndman. Board member Miles Stair attended via telephone.

In other action, the board:
– unanimously ratified the interim contract for Fred Vitello as the hospital’s chief financial officer. For two months, Vitello will be paid $850 a day and will receive travel allowance;
– unanimously approved a five-year contract for Vitello, who will be salaried at $199,000 a year. Vitello will also receive relocation expenses up to $5,000 and health insurance through Schneider. Housing provisions and retirement are excluded from the contract.

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As the St. Thomas-St. John hospital district governing board met for the first time in 2014, Bernard Wheatley, chief executive officer of Schneider Regional Medical Center, reported on the hospital’s areas of growth, including a disrupted joint venture with a renal dialysis services provider.

In late November 2013, Schneider Hospital started pursuing a joint venture with DaVita Inc. in order to provide end-stage renal dialysis services in the district. However, according to Wheatley, the ongoing negotiations are continuously being disrupted by the Caribbean Kidney Center, its former provider, with “false accusations and misrepresentation,” he said Wednesday.

In a letter dated Jan. 22 to V.I. Health Commissioner Darice Plaskett, Caribbean Kidney Center is asserting, said Wheatley, that Schneider has no right to sell or transfer ownership of its services.

“Quite to the contrary, the Virgin Islands Code empowers the hospital to ‘make and execute contracts and lease agreements to attain greater financial self-sufficiency,’” Wheatley said.

Caribbean Kidney Center also alleged, according to Wheatley, that DaVita will replace all local workers and manage the venture without consulting Schneider Hospital or the V.I. government. Wheatley said the matter has been referred to legislative counsel and to the commissioner of Health.

Wheatley also gave an update on the medical waste storage situation, which picked up again in late December when the hauling company failed to pick up four trailers full of medical waste. Wheatley said the Christmas holidays caused a “logistical nightmare” that resulted in a brief backlog in waste disposal between Dec. 31 and Jan. 6.

By the time the Department of Planning and Natural Resources came to inspect the storage situation, the trailers were already picked up by the V.I. Regulated Waste Management, Wheatley said.

New negotiations are under way with CIGNA, Wheatley said, to waive more than $1 million in overpayment filed by CIGNA for inpatient and outpatient services between October 2011 and March 2013. Schneider is proposing to waive the outstanding balance and to renegotiate terms of reimbursement.

“There have also been concerns that CIGNA is leaving the island,” Wheatley said, adding that is “completely false.”

“Blue Cross Blue Shield is also looking at the small groups that United Healthcare once had,” Wheatley said.

Wheatley also reported that emergency room patient flow should improve significantly. New ER equipment is expected to improve turnaround time for tests and results, and the patient wait time should move toward the four-hour national benchmark.

Schneider is currently searching for a vice president for facilities management as Karen Hodge, who used to hold the position, was reassigned as director of facilities, Wheatley reported.

A search is also being conducted, he said, for a vice president of quality and performance improvement and for a chief operating officer. Negotiations are under way with James Muzarelli, a candidate for chief information officer.

Wheatley also updated the board on violence-related injuries treated at Schneider Hospital in 2013. Blunt force trauma topped the list with 152 cases, costing the hospital $337,877.23. Rape cases totaled 146, but it cost the hospital about $1.4 million in treatments. The hospital also treated 45 cases of stab wounds for $226,040.36, and 33 gunshot wounds for $61,232.04.

Wheatley briefly mentioned that a proposal to merge Schneider and Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix is “on the front burner as well as the back burner.”

Present in the Schneider boardroom were Board Chairman Cornell Williams, board members Maria Tankenson-Hodge, Judith Richardson, Wilbur Callendar and Greta Hart-Hyndman. Board member Miles Stair attended via telephone.

In other action, the board:
- unanimously ratified the interim contract for Fred Vitello as the hospital’s chief financial officer. For two months, Vitello will be paid $850 a day and will receive travel allowance;
- unanimously approved a five-year contract for Vitello, who will be salaried at $199,000 a year. Vitello will also receive relocation expenses up to $5,000 and health insurance through Schneider. Housing provisions and retirement are excluded from the contract.