The financial outlook continues to be dire for Gov. Juan Luis Hospital and the dilapidated building continues to degrade, but there was a bit of good news with the announcement of two critical new-hires during Thursday’s monthly board meeting.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Roberto Cintron announced that “after a four-year courtship,” Dr. Gregory Casey, a vascular surgeon, accepted a position at the St. Croix hospital.
Casey is also an experienced general and trauma surgeon. Cintron said employment offers also have been made to an anesthesiologist, bringing the hospital’s total to three, and he is hoping to hire an orthopedic surgeon “after a two-year courtship.”
Cintron said that since the territorial board upgraded salaries for emergency-room physicians, there are more applications than positions available.
“For the first time, we’re in the driver’s seat,” he said.
Another critical position was filled on the administrative side. Terry Lynch, acting chief of human resources, announced that Greg Bryant had been hired as the chief IT officer. Bryant, from Alabama, has a degree from the University of Alabama.
“My goal is to streamline our system and think of new things to bring better care to our patients,” he said.
Lynch also said 17 registered nurses were hired in March, bringing the total number of hospital employees to 530. She added that the turnover rate is 1.23 percent, below the national average.
According to interim Chief Executive Officer Dyma Williams, 10 patients with COVID were hospitalized at JFL in March – the highest number in a month. One of those patients died. Procedures remain the same at the facility, with a check-in station at the gate to the premises, temperature screening at the front door, 100 percent mask-wearing, physical distancing and restricted visitations.
Williams said 40 percent of the hospital staff have been vaccinated, and they plan to administer the Johnson and Johnson one-shot vaccines to patients being discharged.
Monoclonal antibodies are now being administered to coronavirus-positive patients with mild to moderate symptoms. Williams said eight treatments have been administered.
“The antibody treatment prevents ICU support, and patients are less likely to be vented,” she said.
Williams also reported on emergency repairs required in the storm-damaged hospital while waiting for the temporary structure to come online. In March, $80,000 was paid out in emergency repairs.
Last month, patients and staff were evacuated from the Cardiac Care Center when the heat/air conditioning/ventilating system had to be replaced and support equipment rented from Puerto Rico. The Cardiac Center continues to remain empty, she said.
Additionally, JFL’s main building chiller compressors that support the first and second floor flailed and needed motor repairs on April 19. Since the off-island vendor had an exclusive service contract, the temperature was not regulated until April 26.
Also during March, the central vacuum system was offline for two days, and after three new pumps were ordered, additional repairs are still required.
“As we go through the recovery effort at JFL, we realize compromises to JFL infrastructure – $2.4 million since 2019 – could go a long way” toward patient care, she said.
According to Williams, the temporary hospital infrastructure – called JFL North – is essentially complete with the exception of some fixtures, furniture and equipment. Construction of the propane pad is anticipated to be complete in August, and relocating the propane tank should take place in September. Utilities and water installation dates have not been determined.
The financial report cited the usual problems, including low staff numbers resulting in high overtime costs, environmental care issues such as the HVAC breakdown, and past due payments of $257 million a month to vendors, the Internal Revenue Bureau, Government Employment Retirement System and for utilities.
Acting chief financial officer Shenel Moorehead said the hospital continues to experience a “cash crisis.”
The board members did not constitute a quorum, so no votes were taken. A $198,560 contract for Trisus Claims Informatics with Craneware, Inc. to automate billing and perform post-bill audits will be forwarded to the territorial board from approval at their May meeting.
Attending the meeting were board members Dr. Anne Treasure, Christopher Finch, Faye John-Baptiste and Marise James.