CEO talks about hospitals financial situation
As health care questions in Douglas continue to swirl Southeastern Arizona Medical Center (SEAMC) continues to struggle financially.
“We are still struggling financially, but I think we have some options available for us,” SEAMC Chief Executive Officer, Annie Benson said.
Back on Sept. 12 former SEAMC CEO Brian Bickel, presented to Mayor Danny Ortega Jr. and council the possibility of sponsoring the hospital in the Safety Net Care Pool (SNCP).
SNCP was established in 2011and was approved by Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) in 2012, to reimburse participating hospitals for uncompensated care cost provided to AHCCS members and the uninsured.
Eligible hospitals must receive disproportionate share payments and have a local governmental entity sponsor.
The former CEO also approached the county to be the entity sponsor. Cochise County agreed to be the governmental entity sponsor believing they are in a better financial position to sign into such agreement and providing the $300,000. The City of Douglas and Cochise County will enter in an intergovernmental agreement for the city to pay their half of the $300,000.
The funds are to be paid directly to AHCCCS then matched by the federal government two-to-one and distributed to the hospital quarterly. SEAMC had until Sept. 30 to have this agreement signed and returned to AHCCCS for processing if they wanted to take part in the SNCP.
The request was signed and submitted to the state on Oct. 2.
“AHCCS has approved it and now it is sitting in Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) hands,” Benson said. “It was approved by AHCCS about two weeks ago. We are waiting for CMS to approve it once they approve it we can move forward.”
“What I’m concerned about now is that we won’t receive the five quarters we will only receive the four quarters which will add up to $900, 000,” added Benson.
These funds will go to bringing some of their vendors’ current, said the CEO. “But I would like to take a portion of that, but that would be up to the board, to use it as an investment to build a new hospital in Douglas,” she said.
Benson feels there are other options out there if their application does not go through as planned.
The Arizona Health Facility Authority has provided SEAMC with a grant in the amount of $25,000 to pay for a consultant that will be coming to the hospital in January.
The Authority provides grants for rural and underserved areas of the state. Grants are available in three categories: capital equipment; technical assistance; and sponsorship of community health events and conferences. Eligible technical assistance requests include architectural, facility planning, financial management and fundraising. Technical assistance requests are limited to no more than $25,000 each.
“He will be doing a complete financial and operational review,” the CEO said. “Hopefully he can help give us some recommendations on what we need to change or provide in order to move forward.”
Benson feels that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also known as the Obamacare will have a positive impact on the hospital. “Depending on how it all filters down if everyone has insurance, so in a way that should be beneficial to us,” she said. “Depending on what the reimbursements are.”
Currently Copper Queen Community Hospital announced their plans to build a health facility care (urgent care) in Douglas. They are working on purchasing property in Douglas to build this facility.
“Certainty it will hurt us, I don’t know if it is necessary, we provide urgent care right here in this hospital. I don’t know why we need another facility like that. I feel it is a duplication of services,” Benson said.
An emergency room is essentially one wing of a hospital, and has the equipment and trained medical personnel to handle major traumas. An urgent care center may have the means to treat broken bones or other non-life threatening conditions.
“An urgent care center is not necessarily good for the people who cannot pay because of an urgent care center can turn away people if they do not have the ability to pay for the services at the time,” Benson said. “Looking at the indigent population in Douglas I don’t see really where it is going to help.”
Hospital emergency rooms are required by law to provide emergency treatment to anyone who requests it, regardless of the patient's ability to pay.
However, an urgent care center, can exercise the right to refuse uninsured patients.
Since Benson has been appointed CEO there have been no talks of layoffs.
“We are looking at moving responsibility and positions around. There are other ways we can maintain and survive without doing any cuts in personal,” she said. “As for the morale I think the employees are doing better. They can hold their heads up. We work very well as a team I have very dedicated and confident staff.”