The governing board of the Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital learned Wednesday evening that the health care facility just received more than $1 million from the V.I. government to help with it final efforts to avert decertification and the loss of millions of dollars and to correct deficiencies cited by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services in September 2014.
In a 112-page report, CMS criticized the hospital for an inactive governing board and failing to report incidents in which patients were harmed. After the threat of decertification, CMS reconsidered and accepted a plan of corrections giving the hospital nine months to reach the specified goals.
The almost $1.7 million received within the last few days could be the final payment of $7 million approved by the 31st Legislature to implement a systems improvement agreement with CMS, according to Tim Lessing, JFL chief financial officer.
Lessing said there is a dispute over $50,000, but the funds in hand are being used to upgrade software, to buy a mammography machine and to pay the consultants hired to help prepare the hospital for the CMS inspection, which is expected at any time.
With the previous government allotment of $3.7 million, vendors were paid, medications were purchased, and computer programs were installed or updated.
Lessing and Philip Arcidi, board treasurer, also reported on the hospital’s financial status, which continues to run a $1 to $1.2 million monthly deficit.
Net operating revenue was $5 million, compared to $3.6 million last year, and expenses increased by $1.4 million over last year.
The largest expense increases were in salaries, professional services, fees and medical supplies.
The hospital is still up-to-date on its payments into the Government Employees Retirement System. Lessing said JFL will bring back payments up to date if employees are trying to retire.
On Wednesday, Dr. Kendall Griffith, chief executive officer, told the board the hospital is on track to reaching CMS compliance.
“The hospital has shifted its focus to the implementation of the sustainability projects and monitoring of compliance with regulatory standards to assure a state of continuous survey readiness,” Griffith said.
One of the CMS complaints was the lack of clinical staff. Over the last few months, efforts to recruit physicians, technicians and nurses have yielded only a few new employees, reportedly due to low salaries.
On Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Ricketts, board chairman, named six physicians recommended for staff privileges for one to two years. The board approved all including Dr. Elizabeth Del Giacco, internal medicine, hematology and oncology specialist, who will receive a salary starting at $150,000 and ending at $87,165 for the last two years.
Griffith said the focus lately has been on recruiting respiratory technicians and surgical nurses as well as physicians.
The board also approved a five-year strategic plan that will be available on the hospital’s website.
Originally JFL requested more than $10 million from the V.I. Legislature: almost $5 million for medications and prescriptions, $1.5 million to reopen the psychiatric unit, almost $2 million for third-party consultants, and the rest for vendor payments and cost containment services.
Over the last several weeks, various areas in the hospital have experienced excessive heat, due to a failing air conditioning system. The board learned Wednesday that the system should be fixed Thursday when a new chiller arrives from Puerto Rico.
The chiller, worth $500,000, will be rented for $5,000 a month, Okolo reported.
A new system would cost $10 million Griffith added.
Other facility improvements are in the works, according to the CEO. The Labor and Delivery Unit renovation should be completed in August and a request for proposal should be issued to renovate the psychiatric unit next month.
Another of CMS’s complaints was the lack of a board quorum. For more than a year the board was unable to make decisions and had to send everything through the territorial board. Shortly after the September CMS visit, two new members were appointed – Troy deChabert-Schuster and Kimberly Jones.
Griffith reported Wednesday that two more nominations are pending Senate approval, which would fill all vacancies. Hopefully before the CMS inspection, he added.
Board members present at the meeting were Ricketts, de Chabert-Schuster, Arcidi and Jones; and Joyce Heyliger via teleconference.