Groundwork begins to add physician, services

Hospital continues to gauge region’s health needs

Work to recruit another physician, bring specialists to the community, and add services to Republic County Hospital was discussed November 27 at the regular meeting of the hospital board of trustees.

Administrator David-Paul Cavazos said he and members of the NCK Health Care Foundation continue to reach out to potential family practice physicians to recruit to Republic County in light of the impending retirement of Dr. Robert Holt January 1.

He said he is also looking for ways to attract an anesthesia provider who could also provide pain management services, and has visited with a general surgeon about assisting with procedures at Republic County Hospital one or two days a week. The hospital contracts with an anesthesia group to provide services for scheduled surgeries, but he and board member Dr. Cayle Goertzen said Dr. Holt’s retirement will present challenges for some emergency surgeries. Cavazos said there may also be changes in visiting specialists in orthopedics and cardiology in the future. He also continues to research mental health programs especially designed for Medicare-eligible patients.

“Barry (Bottger, chief financial officer) and I continue to look at projects that we want to accomplish in the next year,” said Cavazos, who became hospital administrator August 1. “We want them to be revenue generators, and also good and helpful for the community.”

The hospital’s financials saw expenses of $203,000 over revenue for the month of October, but in November there was a positive bottom line of $17,000. Bottger said new Medicare rates for hospital services effective November 1 would have generated an additional $132,000 in October.

In other business:

  • The hospital board approved transferring up to $150,000 from tax funds to the hospital for operating expenses.
  • Holiday gifts of $75 in local Santa bucks for each employee was approved.
  • A new digital storage system for radiology procedures will “cut the cost in half” and providers will be able to more easily pull up images from remote locations, Cavazos said. Training on the new system begins December 4.
  • Cavazos said he recently met with an energy management firm about proposed updates to the hospital’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.

“At some point in time that is going to have to be addressed,” he said.

The hospital had discussions with Opterra Energy last year about a project to replace the HVAC system in the original hospital building, but postponed the project indefinitely because of the closure of Long Term Care and uncertainty about finances.

  • Cavazos said the Centers for Medicare/ Medicaid Services is proposing a cut in payments to Critical Access Hospitals for swing bed services. The Kansas Hospital Association said the Office of the Inspector General is proposing cuts in reimbursement to the rates paid to lower skilled nursing facilities.

The action would save Medicare $4.1 billion over a six year period, “but that would hurt us badly”, Cavazos told hospital board members.

The hospital averages eight to nine patients a day, two to three who are swing bed patients. Swing bed is a lower level of care for Medicare patients who are improving, but who still need supervised care.

  • Because of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, which fall on Monday this year, the hospital board will not meet in December unless a called meeting is required. The board meets at noon on the fourth Monday of every month; meetings are open to the public.