A special meeting to consider the Greenwood Leflore Hospital’s finances heard its interim CEO talk about the hospital’s need for increased revenue, a hospital board member’s desire to cut salaries, and a supervisor’s call for increasing Medicaid reimbursements by choosing a gubernatorial candidate who supports the expansion.
The combined meeting Monday of the Leflore County Board of Supervisors and the Greenwood City Council ended with an agreement to split the cost of a feasibility study that will be used to attract proposals from outside firms to buy, lease or affiliate with the hospital. Both government bodies had hired a consultant last fall to scout for interested outside parties and to give them an idea of the hospital’s value.
Subho Basu, the hospital’s interim CEO, presented detailed performance data for the hospital over the past three years and laid out a 36-month plan to turn the hospital around to where it is operating at a near even profit margin. He offered a three-step approach to get there: create functional teams, produce revenue increases in targeted areas and reduce unnecessary costs.
Under new accounting rules, the publicly owned hospital lost almost $37 million over the previous three years and $1.3 million so far in the first four months of this fiscal year.
“The hospital has the ability to come through this situation like probably no other hospital in the Delta,” said District 1 Supervisor Sam Abraham. “And I feel comfortable we can do it, but my problem is we cannot continue to go in the direction we’re going.”
Abraham said some of the members appointed by the county and the city to the hospital board “are totally leaving out the owners of the hospital ... everyone of us who live in Leflore County. It’s not this board, not the city board, it’s not the hospital board.”
He said the hospital can provide the best care possible for people of Leflore County, but he also said, “We don’t want to lose another doctor,” referring to a recent rash of voluntary and involuntary departures from the medical staff. He also said the hospital board should have come before the county and city boards before hiring Basu to explain why it picked him. Before his selection as interim CEO, Basu had worked for one of the consulting firms the hospital had hired to help restore it to profitability.
Greenwood Mayor Carolyn McAdams noted all parties had a vested interest in the hospital and reiterated that the hospital cannot lose any more doctors. She praised the hospital’s “personal touch” and noted the widely reported financial difficulties hospitals were having across the state and how the board and administrators needed to turn it around.
“We’ve got to have everybody on board,” McAdams said. “To save this hospital is vital. It is imperative. It is what we have. If we lose this hospital, we have lost Greenwood.”
Basu showed the boards how the hospital is increasing revenue in different areas: in the Cancer Center by $1.4 million this year; in the emergency room, by $5.4 million; in the pharmacy, by $1.4 million; and in inpatient rehabilitation and therapy, by $500,000.
Basu said the hospital has monthly revenue and expense targets that demonstrate where the continuing problems are. The revenue target of $9.61 million per month has only been hit once in the first five months of the current fiscal year. The expense target of $9.76 million per month has been achieved in four of five months, and when it was missed expenses ran to $10.1 million.
“Cutting costs is really not the problem right now,” he said. “It’s revenue. It’s volume.”
Several board members and audience members complained that Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant had refused several opportunities to expand Medicaid in the state, which could mean millions more to hospitals to compensate for care to individuals without the ability to pay.
Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, a fellow Republican, have repeatedly referred to Medicaid expansion as “Obamacare expansion” and claimed the state could not afford it. Mississippi is one of 14 states that have not signed on.
District 2 Supervisor Reginald Moore said the public can “fix this problem when we go to the polls and vote. ... We can fix this hospital. We can save this hospital.”
Hospital board member Freddie White-Johnson complained about board members constantly being beaten up by “negative comments.” She said she had spoken to people who told her the hospital was “operating like it was in New York” and was too top-heavy with too many consultants. She said that salary levels were too high and that she knew of one employee who had a high school education and made $100,000.
She claimed some employees were being paid too much because they were “somebody’s cousin”and that doctors were being paid bonuses while not meeting their revenue goals. “Some things will be exposed pretty soon,” she threatened.
When District 5 Supervisor Robert Collins asked her if it wasn’t her job to make the cuts, White-Johnson pointed to Basu and said, “He’s the interim CEO, let’s make that clear.”
Abraham asked the hospital board to supply the city and county with regular financial updates. He also indicated a member of the Board of Supervisors or City Council would start attending the hospital board meeting on the third Tuesday of each month for an update.
He also told the hospital board members he wouldn’t need to be fed at the meetings. This remark was in reference to the buffet that hospital board members are treated to at their twice-monthly sessions. The menu usually consists of fish and meat dishes, such as tempura fried jumbo shrimp and pork cutlets, vegetable and starch side dishes, fresh salads with a choice of dressing, an array of breads, soft drinks and desserts. The strawberry shortcake was very popular earlier this month, with some staff not waiting until the executive session before partaking. Some board members are regularly seen leaving at the end of the night with multiple plastic foam containers to take home what wasn’t eaten.
The food is provided by the hospital’s kitchen at hospital expense.
•Contact Gavin Maliska at 581-7235 or email@example.com.