Although they lack the power to make decisions, the remaining two members of the Gov. Juan Luis Hospital board discussed operations and recovery efforts with the administration Tuesday evening, but physicians looking for approval to work at the hospital will have to wait for the territorial board to convene and vote Thursday.
The full board consists of nine members, and five are required for a quorum that allows them to approve and renew physician and other medical staff contracts and operational changes. Without a quorum, it is up to the territorial hospital board to make changes at the St. Croix hospital.
The lack of a quorum prevents any action that requires a board vote and delays progress with staffing and streamlining operations. The St. Croix board met occasionally without a quorum for more than a year – July 2013 to September 2014. Last September, two board members – Aida Bermudez and Therese Frorup-Ali, resigned and Vera Falu declined to serve for another term, leaving only three trustees. The resignations came after the terminations of the previous chief executive and chief financial officers.
The governor appoints and the senate approves seven board members. The medical community elects a physicians’ representative and a nursing representative. Dr. Olivine Anne Treasure and Faye John-Baptiste, a registered nurse, and Aracelis Walcott are the hospital’s current trustees. Walcott was absent Tuesday.
Most of the hospital’s administrators are in an acting capacity and are directing the grueling tasks of reopening the hospital after two hurricanes battered the facility in 2017.
Currently, only the first level of the hospital and the V.I. Cardiac Care Center are in use. The emergency room, business office and radiology department operate in the original building. In-patients stay at VICCC.
Dyma Williams, acting CEO, said the final damage assessment by the federal government is due soon and will determine whether the hospital will be rebuilt or repaired. Last week, Gov. Albert Bryan, Jr. said, on several occasions, that the hospital will be rebuilt.
Williams reported the floor plans for the temporary OR units and modular dialysis units should be approved next week, with manufacturing set soon after. Once built, the units will be inspected for regulatory compliance before the hardened structures can be installed.
Before the hurricanes, the hospital treated about 70 dialysis patients, but some relocated to the mainland and several have passed away since then. Currently, 31 dialysis patients are being treated in structures in the south parking lot, Williams said.
JFL is still having difficulties hiring staff, and overtime costs are high. Williams said some positions might be combined in the future to reduce the number of employees needed.
More than 300 people attended a career fair last week to apply for 40 positions. Applications and resumes are still being reviewed.
An arrangement has been made to use fourth-year resident physicians from the mainland in the emergency room in hopes some may relocate after their internship, Williams said, as well as provide additional medical support at a lower cost to the hospital.
Shenel Moorehead, acting chief financial officer, reported the hospital will use the entire $42 million community disaster loan by the deadline, which was extended to March 31. The funds have been used for payroll and current operating expenses.
Even with the grant money, the hospital “still has a mountain of debt to climb,” she said.
Vendors are being paid every pay period according to the importance of their product or service, for example, medications and medical supplies.
The hospital is still making back payments to the Government Employees Retirement System and Moorehead said $1.9 million is still owed and should be paid soon. Current employer contributions are up to date, she said.
Treasure ended the meeting with encouraging words for the staff. She expressed the hope that additional board members will be appointed and approved quickly, especially an attorney, accountant, architect or engineer to complement the medical staff now serving.